Soneva Fushi – Maldives

Soneva Fushi in the Maldives – by Darina Allen

For me the word ‘resort’ immediately rings alarm bells – not my kind of holiday. So when I was invited to cook a Slow Food dinner and give a cookery class in exchange for a few days holiday on a remote island resort in the Maldives called Soneva Fushi, I was a bit ‘iffy’. The name meant nothing to me but when I mentioned it in passing to a well travelled friend he was adamant that this was not an opportunity to pass up – after all it was chosen as Resort of the Year and Best Island Retreat 2010 By Conde Nast Traveller!

One can fly directly from Gatwick to Malé, an easy 10 hour flight.
From there, it’s a thrilling thirty minute hop on a sea plane to the tiny pontoon in the sea rather grandly named Soneva Fushi International Airport.

This flight was possibly the most spectacular I’ve ever encountered, flying over miles of atolls, reefs and lagoons, surrounded by azure blue water, breathtakingly beautiful and almost surreal.

Another few minutes by motor boat and we were there but not before our shoes had been confiscated, everyone walks bare foot on the island! It looked utterly beautiful, just like those tempting travel ads on TV except it is very real. A tiny palm fringed island with white sandy beaches that slope gently into the clear blue sea. The villas are all tucked between the trees towards the surrounding lagoon. Soneva Fushi remoteness is central to its charm, the ultimate in barefoot sophistication and large enough not to be bored yet small enough to get round easily – the island is just one and half kilometres in length and half a kilometre wide. All the villas had bikes so we could pedal along the sandy paths around the island. It only takes a few minutes to cycle to the Turtle beach, the Dive centre or the Six Senses Spa. Cycling my bike under the jungle canopy with my hair billowing in the breeze was so exhilarating, I felt as though I was eighteen again! Soneva Fushi has a strong environment policy, with a resident permaculturalist and a resident marine biologist who is deeply knowledgeable about the coral reefs and totally passionate about sustainable fishing. Her name was Kate, and I have a soft spot for her because she took me snorkelling for the first time at sixty two years of age. I was sure I was a lost cause , because I’m a particularly ‘scardy’ swimmer, but lovely Kate was undaunted – she trussed me up in a life jacket, showed me how to spit on  the goggles to keep the lens clear and launched me gently off the wooden steps of Bar (a) Bara. It was SO amazing, like swimming in an aquarium of exotic tropical fish, you can’t imagine the courage it took but now I wish I’d started forty years ago. The other highlight of our visit was meeting permaculturalist Mark Garret. He spent ages showing us around the organic vegetable and fruit gardens and explaining the principals of this totally logical sustainable system of agriculture – permaculture.

The owners of Soneva Fushi, Sonu and Eva Shivdasani, are completely committed to creating an interconnected holistic system and they are well on their way to doing just that. Growing vegetables in the tropics has its challenges, not just water; the soil here is highly acidic and lacking in nitrogen so Mark and his team of local gardeners are gradually introducing the missing elements through nitrogen fixing plants and compost. Mark has introduced a 21 day Berkley composting system which is proving to be highly successful and uses the available waste material from the island- leaves, paper, cardboard, coffee grinds… Priyantha Gallege also grows both shitake and oyster mushrooms very successfully in

Saw-dust, dolomite, magnesium sulphate, red rice husk and soy bean powder mixture.
 I’m looking forward to replicating his experiments here in Shanagarry.
So how about the food? Well there was was lots of it and in true resort style a myriad of choices so it didn’t really matter how ‘picky’ an eater you are, there are many delicious options for everyone. For me some of the highlights were the sublime fresh fruit on the breakfast buffet I think I can truly say that no where else in the entire world have I found such an amazing selection of beautifully ripe fruit, mangoes and papayas at the peak of perfection, lychees, rambutans, mangosteens, guavas, chermoyas, pineapples, pomegranates, three different varieties of bananas and melons…There were also chunks of fresh coconut straight out of the shell and foamy freshly squeezed juices. This area was Sirisene’s pride and joy. He rose at 4 am each morning to have his delectable array ready for guests. The cheese and cured meat and salami room was another surprise, a temperature controlled space with marble and glass shelves to display a variety of cheese and cured meats in beautiful condition, not easy at the best of times but a truly remarkable achievement in a tropical environment. Once again this was the pride and joy of another local chap with the biggest smile called Ravi Jayawardene He knew all about the cheeses, where they came from and was delighted to share his passion.

All the breads, desserts, ice creams and sorbets were also freshly made every day and were to be found in the Eversoneva room again at the edge of the eating area. Stephen Wheeler from the UK is the ‘big boss’ who coordinates all these eating options, there are forty chefs. He and his team were so welcoming and supportive. I had great fun cooking with his boys both in the Fresh in the Garden restaurant and the main kitchen. It was fantastic to have such lovely ingredients to cook with, some directly from the organic vegetable gardens. We stayed in the littlest villa – thatched and perfect for two but there are many options – the very essence of a castaway’s fantasy. Thirty three villas have private pools and the larger Jungle Reserve and Retreats incorporate the very first Maldives tree houses. I was so delighted to be able to just chill in my ‘lounger’ to just read a book or watch the sunset. Sporty types can do some serious or gentle diving from the Padi dive centre and course snorkelling – the sea is deliciously warm.

Several times a week there’s a film in the open air Paradiso cinema under the stars, or you can climb up to the observatory for an astronomy session. And then there’s the Six Senses Spa – names by Conde Nast Traveller as the Best Overseas Spa 2006 – seriously pampering.

For me who arrived as a serious sceptic, Soneva Fushi really worked its magic and I find myself wondering how soon I can return – for me it was a perfect place to relax one can choose to be reclusive or gregarious – there is no forced fraternisation which can be an excruciating element of some resorts. It was difficult to tear ourselves away from the island but this seems to be a perennial problem for guests, almost everyone we met had been before and several people for the eighth time!

I feel this place has an intangible kind of magic that is hard to describe, the ultimate in barefoot luxury and you get your shoes back at the end!


What does it cost?
A seven night stay at Suneva Fushi can cost from USD 8250.00 for a double room with gorgeous sea views, private outdoor sitting area, private garden, it’s like a little luxurious home away from home. Do enquire about special package deals.

How to Get There
British Airways fly from Heathrow, Stanstead and Gatwick to Malé International Airport three times a week.
Maldavian Air Taxi fly at regular intervals. Soneva Fushi also has a private sea plane.
Soneva Fushi by Six Senses
Kunfunadhoo Island, Baa Atoll, Republic of Maldives
Tel: +960 660 0304, Fax: +960 660 0374
Places of Interest
There are lots of islands close by to explore and picnic on.

Holiday Cooking

Everyone is still in holiday mood this week, the kids are still off school, lots of opportunity to have fun, go for long walks, point to point…

If you have the strength there are terrific sales and bargains to be had in all the departments including Christmas treats – nothing like fresh air to whip up an appetite, so this could be the week to cook together and get the kids and teens peeling, chopping and mixing as well.

Jerusalem artichokes are in season now, a brilliant winter vegetable, with the highest inulin content of any vegetable. They are particularly valuable if you’ve been on a course of antibiotics which will whack the good bacteria in your system as well as the baddies, you’ll need to rebuild your beneficial gut flora and nothing will do the job faster than Jerusalem artichokes and delicious they are too. They look like knobbly potatoes and provide lots of fun peeling. Here’s the most delicious recipe for soup but they are also fantastically good thickly sliced and then roasted after they’ve been tossed in extra virgin olive oil, seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast them at about 200°C/400°F/Mark 6. When they have caramelised on one side, flip them over and continue to cook. Great as a vegetable or an accompaniment to fish, meat, or game but really gorgeous mixed with rocket leaves and roasted hazelnuts as a starter. How about a fine pot of stew made with shoulder of lamb or shin of beef. Let it bubble away slowly in the oven while you enjoy a long walk in the winter frost or sunshine.

A few floury Ballycotton Queens or a bowl of Champ would round off a perfect lunch or supper.

Everyone loves bread and butter pudding – we do a ton of varieties on this recipe, I’ll make a Seville orange marmalade version in a few weeks just as soon as I’ve made my marmalade, but the original is impossible to beat – loved by young and old.

The apple fritters are a quickie and the kids will love making them too – they cook into funny shapes with crispy edges that can be interpreted as little monsters or ghouls. Toss them in cinnamon sugar – Green Saffron has beautiful fresh cinnamon.


Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Avocado and Hazelnut Salsa


Serves 8-10

Jerusalem artichokes are a sadly neglected winter vegetable. They look like knobbly potatoes and are a nuisance to peel, but if they are very fresh you can sometimes get away with just giving them a good scrub. Not only are they a smashing vegetable but they are also delicious in soups and gratins. They are a real gem from the gardeners point of view because the foliage grows into a hedge and provides shelter and cover for both compost heaps and pheasants! For a simple family meal omit the avocado and hazelnuts.

50g (2oz) butter

560g (1 1/4 lb) onions, peeled and chopped

1.15kg (2 1/2 lbs) Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed, peeled and chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.1L (2 pints) light chicken stock

600ml (1 pint) creamy milk approx.




Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa



1 ripe avocado, halved, stone removed, peeled and diced into neat scant 1 cm dice

3 tablespoons of hazelnuts, roasted, skinned and coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons of hazelnut or olive oil

1 tablespoon of chopped flat parsley

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix the ingredients for the avocado and hazelnut garnish. Taste and correct seasoning. This mixture will sit quite happily in your fridge for an hour as the oil coating the avocado will prevent it from discolouring.


Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the onions and artichokes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, cover and sweat gently for 10 minutes approx. Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are soft. Liquidise and return to the heat. Thin to the required flavour and consistency with creamy milk, and adjust the seasoning.

Serve in soup bowls or in a soup tureen. Garnish with chopped parsley and crisp, golden croutons. 


Lamb Stew with Bacon, Onions and Garden Herbs



Serves 4-6

A big pot of bubbly strew makes the most comforting supper on a cold January day

If you’d rather not cover the top with peeled potatoes serve champ or colcannon separately. Let me tell you they smack their lips in France at the mere mention of a great big bubbling stew and now these gutsy, comforting pots are appearing on many of the smartest restaurant menus.


4 lb (1.8kg) gigot or rack chops from the shoulder of lamb not less than 2.5cm (1 inch thick)

12 ozs (350g) green streaky bacon (blanch if salty)

seasoned white flour, preferably unbleached

a little butter or oil for sautéing

1 lb (450g) onions, (baby ones are nicest)

12 ozs (350g) carrot, peeled and thickly sliced

1 3/4 pints (750ml) approx. lamb or chicken stock

8-12 ‘old’ potatoes (optional)

sprig of thyme

roux – (optional) Mushroom a la Crème (optional)



2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley


Cut the rind off bacon and cut into approx. 1/2 inch (1cm) cubes blanch if salty and dry in kitchen paper. Divide the lamb into 8 pieces and roll in seasoned flour. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and sauté the bacon until crisp, remove and put in a casserole. Add the lamb to the pan and sauté until golden then add to the bacon in the casserole. Heat control is crucial here, the pan mustn’t burn yet it must be hot enough to sauté the lamb. If it is cool the lamb will stew rather than sauté and as a result the meat may be tough. Then quickly sauté the onions and carrots, adding a little butter if necessary, and put them into the casserole. Degrease the sauté pan and deglaze with the stock, bring to the boil, pour over the lamb.


Cover the top of the stew with peeled potatoes (if using) and season well. Add a sprig of thyme and bring to simmering point on top of the stove, cover the pot and then put into the oven for 45-60 minutes, 180C/350F/regulo 4. Cooking time depends on how long the lamb was sautéed for.


When the casserole is just cooked, strain off the cooking liquid, degrease and return degreased liquid to the casserole and bring to the boil. Thicken with a little roux if necessary. Add back in the meat, carrots, onions and potatoes, bring back to the boil.

The casserole is very good served at this point, but it’s even more delicious if some Mushroom a la Crème is stirred in as an enrichment. Serve bubbling hot sprinkled with chopped parsley.



Colcannon is another traditional mashed potato dish like champ, but with kale or cabbage instead of spring onions. For another variation try mashed parsnips, a delightful addition. Kale is in season at present, it’s a magic vegetable the most nutritious of all the brassicas.

Serves about 8

450g (1lb) Savoy cabbage or kale (kale is the most traditional)

1.3kg (3lb) ‘old’ potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks

about 225ml (8fl oz) milk

salt and freshly ground pepper

50g (2oz) butter

Scrub the potatoes, put them in a saucepan of cold water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. When the potatoes are half-cooked after about 15 minutes, strain off two-thirds of the water, replace the lid on the saucepan and put onto a gentle heat, leaving the potatoes to steam until they are cooked.

Meanwhile, if using cabbage, remove the dark outer leaves, wash the remainder, cut it into quarters, remove the core and cut finely across the grain. Boil in a little boiling water or bacon cooking water until soft. Drain and season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a little butter.

When the potatoes are just cooked, put the milk and the finely chopped shallots into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Pull the peel off the potatoes and discard. Mash the potatoes quickly, while they are still warm, and beat in enough boiling milk to make a fluffy purée. (If you have a large quantity, put the potatoes in the bowl of a food mixer and beat with the spade.) Then stir in the cooked cabbage and taste for seasoning. For perfection, serve immediately in a hot dish with a lump of butter melting in the centre.

Colcannon may be prepared ahead up to this point and reheated later in a moderate oven 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4, for 20–25 minutes. Cover while reheating so it doesn’t get too crusty on top. 


Bread and Butter Pudding


This is one of the older nursery puddings that has enjoyed a terrific revival, but initially it was just a way of recycling old bread, made with just milk and a scattering of dried fruit. It was something that you ate but didn’t necessarily relish. But there’s nothing frugal about this recipe – it’s got lots of fruit in it and a generous proportion of cream to milk. When people taste it, they just go ‘Wow!’ I know it has a lot of cream in it, but don’t skimp – just don’t eat it every day! We play around with this formula and continue to come up with more and more delicious combinations, depending on what’s in season and what we have around; see below for some of them.



Serves 6-8



12 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed

50g (2oz) butter, preferably unsalted

1⁄2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon or mixed spice

200g (7oz) plump raisins or sultanas

450ml (16fl oz) cream

225ml (8fl oz) milk

4 large organic eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

175g (6oz) sugar plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling

pinch of salt

1 x 20.5cm (8 inch) square pottery or china dish

Butter the bread and arrange 4 slices, buttered side down, in one layer in the buttered dish. Sprinkle the bread with half the spice and half the raisins, then arrange another

layer of bread, buttered side down, over the raisins, and sprinkle the remaining nutmeg and raisins on top. Cover the raisins with the remaining bread, again, buttered side down.

In a bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla extract, sugar and the pinch of salt. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve over the bread. Sprinkle the tablespoonful of sugar over the top and let the mixture stand, loosely covered, at room temperature for at least 1 hour or chill overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Place the pudding in a bain-marie and pour in enough water to come half way up the sides of the baking dish. Bake the pudding in the middle of the oven for about 1 hour or until the top is crisp and golden. Serve the pudding warm with some softly whipped cream.


This bread and butter pudding reheats perfectly.

Delicious Bread and Butter Puddings can be made using

• Barmbrack as a base – add mixed spice or cinnamon.

• Pannettone – proceed as above.

• Brioche – proceed as above or use apricot jam and lace with apricot


• Rhubarb or gooseberry and elderflower compote (see recipe) or spiced apple purée may also be used.



Apple Fritters with Cinnamon Sugar


Funny how one sometimes forgets a recipe; we hadn’t had these for ages, but I remembered them recently and they taste just as good as ever. As children we particularly loved fritters because they used to fry into funny shapes, which caused great hilarity. These can also be shallow-fried in a pan.

Serves 6–8

110g (4oz) plain white flour

pinch of salt

1 organic egg

150ml (5fl oz) milk

good-quality vegetable oil, for frying

450g (1lb) cooking apples (about 4), Bramley’s Seedling or Grenadier

225g (4oz) caster sugar

1 x teaspoon cinnamon powder

Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and drop in the egg. Use a whisk to bring in the flour gradually from the edges, slowly adding in the milk at the same time. Leave the batter in a cool place for about 1 hour.

Heat the oil in a deep-fryer to 180°C (350°F). Peel and core the apples. Cut into rings, no thicker than 1cm (1⁄4in). Dip the rings into the batter and lift out with a skewer, allowing the surplus batter to drain off, then drop into hot fat, a few at a time. Fry until golden brown, drain well on kitchen paper. Toss each fritter in caster sugar mixed with cinnamon. Serve immediately on hot plates with softly whipped cream.


Nana Peg’s Meat Pie


Serves 6 approximately

10 ozs (275 g) plain flour

6 ozs (175 g) butter

1 onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 pint (500 ml) beef stock

2 lbs (900 g) round steak

salt and pepper

Oven proof dish 12 x 9 inches (30.5cm x 23 cm)

Preheat the oven 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6

Mix the flour with ¼ tsp of salt and pepper. Cut the butter into cubes and mix into the flour. Don’t over mix just enough so that you can still see the butter cubes. Add enough water to the flour and butter mix to make dough, and then knead lightly. Wrap pastry in cling film and put into the fridge too chill for 15 minutes.

Cut the steak into ½ inch cubes and roll in seasoned flour then put them into the oven proof dish. Put the chopped onions and carrots over the meat. Pour the beef stock over the meat and vegetables, not above the level of the meat. Take out the pastry and then roll in out to fit the dish, then lay it over the meat and have some pastry left over so that you can roll it and put around the side. Put into the preheated oven and after 10 minutes take it out and cover with tin foil, reduce the temperature to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4 and cook for approximately 1 hour. Take the meat pie out of the oven and remove the tin foil, put back into the oven for approximately 10 minutes to brown.


Rapeseed Oil – Kitty Colchester brought me a delivery of Second Nature Rape Seed Oil freshly pressed last Monday from Drumeen Farm in Urlington Co Kilkenny the oldest existing organic farm in Ireland.

This is the week to make marmalade – take advantage of the extra help around the house and have chop and gossip session, the marmalade will be made in no time and they can all boast that they made it and will have the skills for life. I find the peel of organic marmalade oranges softens better. Cathriona Daunt sells organic Seville oranges – 0863623918.

Declan Ryan continues to expand his wheat flour range of artisan breads, we love the medieval loaf packed full of nuts and fruit with an Irish Farmhouse Cheese like Ardsallagh goats cheese, the perfect gift for a foodie friend.

Remember what milk used to take like before it was homogenized as well as pasteurised? Every Thursday the queue is getting longer at Mahon Point Farmers Market for beautiful Glenilen milk, freshly from the farm, pasteurised and sold in glass bottles. The cream rises to the top and is a forgotten flavour – almost as good as having your own cow – while you are there pick up some homemade butter, a couple of yogurts and some real cream – this is what real Irish produce is about –

Using Up Christmas Leftovers

I love using up leftovers – turning odds and ends of this and that into something tasty and delicious. It’s a skill I learned early in life – Mummy could always whip up something delicious from a few miscellaneous ingredients and a bit of imagination.

So let’s see what’s in the fridge and the pantry after Christmas. Every scrap of left over turkey has been salvaged to make turkey sandwiches but there’s still the carcass which makes the best broth of all, add a couple of onions, a few stalks of celery, some thick chunks of carrot, maybe the green leek tops and a few peppercorns. Cover with cold water and simmer it gently for a few hours to tease out the delicious flavour. If your family and friends can’t be bothered, offer to take theirs too and if necessary freeze until you have the time to make a gorgeous pot of turkey broth.

Left over goose or duck is delicious in a salad with red cabbage and apples and maybe a few lentils or turn it into a shepherd’s pie with a crisp potato or potato and celeriac topping. Ham of course, can be used in a myriad of ways – even little scraps can be used in an omelette, in pasta sauces or a frittata. Left over cranberry sauce will keep for weeks, try it with goat cheese or a filling for a meringue roulade or add it to scones with some orange zest. Left over plum pudding will keep for weeks, just cover it and when the humour takes you, cut it into thick slices and fry it gently in butter and top it with a dollop of whiskey cream or Mrs Hanrahan’s Sauce. It’ll taste almost better than the original. Check out the Midleton Farmers Market website to discover what new and exciting local foods are on the stalls this week.

Brussels sprouts make delicious salads; even the outer leaves make a tasty bright green soup. Try slicing or shredding them thinly, toss in a little sizzling butter and extra virgin olive oil with a little diced chorizo and some diced cooked potato, add a sprinkling of parsley, some thyme leaves and salt and freshly ground black pepper and you will be surprised how delicious and fulfilling it is.

Marrons glacé also keep for ages but if you would like a quick pudding, eat them in the Italian way with Chantilly cream and crystallized violets – delicious.

Smoked salmon trimmings are equally versatile, even a little can be whizzed up with some butter and a few drops of lemon juice to slather on toast – packed into pots this mixture will keep for several weeks. Mulled wine reheats well but left-over wine also make toothsome granita or a jelly – you will need to dilute it with water, otherwise it will be too concentrated – 3 teaspoons of gelatine added to 1 pint of liquid, a little cinnamon added to the softly whipped cream is a nice touch.

Left over mincemeat has a thousand uses, it keeps for ages so there’s no great urgency (the Ballymaloe mincemeat recipe keeps for well over 2 years) but you might like to try this Mincemeat and Apple Meringue Tart our favourite new thing.


Turkey Stock or Broth


Keep your turkey carcass to make a stock that may be used as the basis of a delicious soup or in St Stephen’s Day pie. This is definitely the best-flavoured stock of all and it can be made in the same way as the chicken stock. I’m always discouraging my friends from making this so that they give me their turkey carcasses!

Stock will keep for several days in the refrigerator. If you want to keep it for longer, boil it up again for 5–6 minutes every couple of days; allow it to get cold and refrigerate again. Stock also freezes perfectly. For cheap containers, use large yogurt cartons or plastic milk bottles, then you can cut them away from the frozen stock without a conscience if you need to defrost it in a hurry! Makes about 3.5 litres (6 pints)

2–3 raw or cooked turkey carcasses or a mixture of both giblets from the turkey (neck, heart, gizzard – save the liver for pate)

2-3 onions, sliced

2-3 leeks, green part

4 outside celery stalks or 2 lovage leaves

2-3 carrots cut into chunks

a nice bunch of parsley stalks

2-3 sprigs of thyme

10 peppercorns

Chop up the carcasses as much as possible with the giblets. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and cover with about 3.4 litres (7 pints) cold water. Bring to the boil. Skim the fat off the top with a tablespoon. Simmer for 3–4 hours. Strain and remove any remaining fat. Do not add salt. For a simple bowl of turkey broth add a little julienne of carrot and leek and fresh beans and a scattering of fresh parsley leaves.


Potted Smoked Salmon




This is a delicious way to use up smoked salmon trimmings.




Smoked salmon trimmings


Softened butter, unsalted


Hot toast




Remove any skin or bones from the fish. Weigh the flesh. Add three quarters the weight in butter. Blend to a smooth puree. Fill into pots and run clarified butter over the top. Spread on hot toast and serve.




Turkey, Tomato and Chickpea Stew


Serves 6

1 tablespoon mustard seed

3 onions chopped

1 tsp freshly grated fresh ginger

1-2 red chillies, seeded and chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

8 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 1 x 400g (14oz) tin tomatoes

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper


2 x 400g (14oz) tins chickpeas

500g (18oz) cooked turkey, diced

250g (9oz) cooked ham, diced

lots of fresh coriander

Salsa Verde – see recipe


Salsa Verde


This green salsa is very good served with beef, lamb, and pork and also oily fish, like salmon and mackerel. It keeps for several weeks in the fridge.

1 bunch of rocket, mint, tarragon and flat parsley

1 tablespoon of capers

2 cloves of garlic, crushed to a smooth paste

8 anchovies, finely chopped

1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

8floz olive oil

zest of 1 lemon

black pepper

Maldon Sea salt to taste

Chop the herbs and mix with the other ingredients. Taste and correct seasoning. Store in a covered container in the fridge or freeze.

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a sauté pan over a medium heat, add the mustard seeds, cook for a minute or two until they pop, add the onion, toss and sweat for 5 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and chilli and continue to fry for 2 or 3 minutes. Increase the heat add the chopped tomatoes, season with salt, pepper and sugar and continue to cook for 6-10 minutes. Add the chickpeas, turkey and ham. Stir and let it bubble for 5 minutes. Add lots of fresh coriander. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Pour into a hot serving bowl. Serve in deep wide soup plates, drizzled with Salsa Verde. Garnish with sliced chilli and coriander leaves. Eat with naan or another flat bread and a bowl of yoghurt.


Frittata with Ham and Mushrooms



Serves 6-8


A frittata, the Italian omelet, is a brilliant recipe to have in your repertoire, doesn’t matter how many hungry lads arrive in, looking expectant, just look in the fridge and add whatever delicious little left over you can find.


10 large eggs, preferably free range organic

1 teaspoon salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

75g (3ozs) Gruyére cheese, grated

25g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, grated

a mixture of the above two cheeses or other leftover cheese

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 teaspoons thyme leaves

25g (1oz) butter

2 tablespoons basil or marjoram chopped

225g (8oz)diced cooked ham

110g (4oz) sliced and sautéed mushrooms


450g (1lb) sliced leeks, sweated in a little olive oil or butter



To Serve


Rocket leaves

Tomato and Coriander Salsa

Non-stick pan – 22.5cm (10inch) frying pan


Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Mark 3. Whisk the eggs in a bowl; add the salt, freshly ground pepper, fresh herbs, grated cheese, ham, mushrooms or leeks into the eggs. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When the butter starts to foam, tip in the eggs. Cook for 3 – 4 minutes. Then transfer into the oven for 12 – 15 minutes. Remove from the oven; allow to settle for 3 or 4 minutes.

Slide a palette knife under the frittata to free it from the pan. Slide onto a warm plate.

Serve with a good green salad and maybe some tomato salsa made with cherry tomatoes at this time of the year.


Marrons Glacées with Sweet Cream and Crystallized Violets


By the end of October the cafes and food shops of Turin are selling beautiful new season’s marrons glacées. They are arranged on little gold trays decorated with crystallized violets.

The Italians eat them for dessert on a bed of crème Chantilly. The combination of sweetened vanilla scented cream and marrons glacées with the crunchy crystallized violets is divine.

Look for them in specialist food shops during Christmas and enjoy them the Piedmontese way.


Crème Chantilly


Stiffly whip 300ml (1/2 pint) double cream, fold in 1 tablespoon castor sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence.


Mincemeat and Apple Meringue Tart


Serves 10-12

The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter. Use it for a variety of fruit tarts. It can be difficult to handle when its first made and benefits from being chilled for at least an hour. Better still, if rested overnight.



6 oz (175 g) white flour

1 oz (25 g) caster sugar

½ oz 10 g) icing sugar

1 egg, beaten



1 lb (450 g) mincemeat

1½ lbs (700 g) Bramley apples



3 egg whites

6 ozs (175 g) caster sugar


Egg wash


1 x 9 inch (23 cm) deep tart tin


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/regulo 4.


First make the pastry in the usual way. Beat the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the egg and beat for several minutes. Reduce the speed and mix in the flour. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 1 hour otherwise it is difficult to handle.

Bake the tart base blind for about 25 minutes in the preheated oven or until pale and golden, remove the beans and paper.

Brush the prebaked tart shell with a little beaten egg and pop back into the oven for 5-minutes or until almost cooked. Cool. Reduce the temperature to 130ºC/250ºF/gas mark ½.

Peel and core the apples. Cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) chunks. Place in a sauté pan with a tight fitting lid. Put on a very low heat and cook until the apples have broken down 25- 30 minutes approx.

Whisk the egg whites with the caster sugar until it reaches stiff peaks. Spread the apple puree over the cooked pastry base, spoon the mincemeat over the apple. Top with the meringue fluffing into peaks. Return to the oven and cook for 1 hour until the meringue is crisp. Cool on a wire rack and serve with a bowl of softly whipped cream.



Last minute dot com!

Ballymaloe Cookery School will be open today – Christmas Eve – for last minute gift vouchers. Decide on an amount or purchase a cookery course over the phone and we will email you a copy to print and we’ll post the actual voucher to arrive later. 021 4646785 or


Caherbeg Spiced Beef. A piece of spiced beef is a brilliant standby for any time not just Christmas and New Year. There’s lots of good ones but you shouldn’t miss the Caherbeg version which I have just discovered, beautifully balanced and not too spicy. Willie Allshire has been experimenting and I’d wager a bet that this too will be an award winner as well as their puddings – 023 8848474 – Caherbeg, Rosscarbery, West Cork.

Enjoy the Christmas Season to the full then join nutritionists Debbie Shaw and Linn Thortennson for their Wellness Programme in the Fermoy Youth Centre, for 5 Tuesday nights starting January 24th, 2012 to feel healthier and happier and to have more energy.  Tel: 086-3893768, or email: or visit

New Seasons Olive Oil – We have just got a delivery of the first of the New Seasons Tuscan olive oil, Capezzana, Fontodi and Selvapiana extra virgin olive oil ‘to die for’ – the ultimate present for a foodie friend.

Christmas is Coming, the Geese are Getting Fat…

‘Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat, please put a penny in the old man’s hat…’so goes the old nursery rhyme so if we are lucky enough to be sitting down to a fine plump goose or turkey this Christmas, let’s give thanks to the Good Lord and Terra Madre and resolve to put our hands in our pockets for Simon or St Vincent de Paul, doesn’t necessarily have to be money – could be food or a few bottles of beer, wine, or lemonade to bring cheer during the festive season.  The delicious, buttery, herby stuffing I’m using here for the turkey would also be delicious in a free range chicken, pheasant or guinea fowl, the accompaniments are interchangeable but a few homemade potato crisps –  called game chips when they are served with game would also be delicious  if non-traditional – served with turkey. Again the stuffing for goose or duck can be interchangeable. Several local farmers, including Tom Clancy in Ballycotton, Robbie Fitzsimmons in East Ferry near Midleton and Eugene and Helena Hickey of Skeaganore in Ballydehob,West Cork rear delicious ducks.

Bramley apple sauce is of-course a delicious foil for the rich goose meat but here I serve it with a simple Seville orange sauce. Don’t forget to save the precious duck or goose fat – it’ll keep for ages in the fridge and produces totally irresistible roast potatoes.

For a starter, smoked and fresh salmon rillettes with dill or ruby grapefruit, with green grapes and pomegranate seeds is light and refreshing. Both can be made ahead, the rillettes several days ahead and the day before for the grapefruit starter.

The sauce for the plum pudding (see my recipe for this in the Examiner Saturday 26th November) keeps for weeks, make more than you need, pop on a label and a ribbon and use the extra jars as presents.

Pick up a nice piece of spiced beef from your butcher, cook it according to the instructions and serve it with some cucumber pickle, slices of avocado and flat leafed parsley, a great standby for salads and sandwiches after Christmas.

Traditional mince pies have a pastry top and bottom and delicious though they are we have had fun doing lots of twists on the original, we sometimes add a teaspoon of Bramley apple puree to each tart, or replace the pastry top with meringue or crumble with flaked almonds – delicious and less filling.

Sticky toffee pudding is another delicious alternative to plum pud – less expensive to make – just watch your family and friends fighting over the last few morsels in the best Christmas spirit! Enjoy and many blessings for 2012.

Rillettes of Salmon and Dill


This is a terrific standby recipe made from a combination of fresh and smoked salmon. It makes a great little starter but can be tarted up in all sorts of ways or simply slathered on hot thin toast or crusty bread for a tasty nibble to accompany a glass of crisp white wine.


The texture of this pate should be coarse and slightly stringy – it should resemble that of pork rillettes, where the meat is torn into shreds with forks rather than blended.  Don’t be spooked if the amount of butter you use – you’re not going to eat it all yourself!


Serves 12-16


350g (3/4 lb) freshly-cooked salmon

350g (3/4 lb) smoked wild or organic Irish salmon

350g (3/4 lb) softened butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 – 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

a good grating of nutmeg

lemon juice to taste


To Cook the Smoked Salmon


25g (1oz) butter

2 tablespoons water

clarified butter (optional)


Melt 25g (1oz) butter in a small saucepan; add the smoked salmon and 1 tablespoon of water.  Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes or until it no longer looks opaque.  Allow it to get quite cold.


Cream the butter in a bowl.  With two forks, shred the fresh and smoked salmon and mix well together.  Add to the soft butter still using a fork (do not use a food processor).  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, chopped dill or a little freshly grated nutmeg.  Taste and add lemon juice as necessary, and some freshly chopped fennel if you have it.


Serve in individual pots, tiny Kilner jars, in a pottery terrine, on cucumber slices or on grilled bread. Cover with a layer of clarified butter.  Serve with hot toast or hot crusty white bread, a little salad or organic leaves and fresh herbs.  Salmon rillettes will keep perfectly in the refrigerator for 5 or 6 days provided they are sealed with clarified butter.


Salmon Rillettes on Cucumber Slices

2 cucumbers

salmon rillettes as above

Cut the cucumber into 1/4 slices.  Pipe or spoon a blob of pâté onto the cucumber slices.  Garnish with sprigs of chervil and chive or wild garlic flowers.  Arrange 3 on a plate with a little salad in the centre or serve as a canapé.


Salmon Rillettes on Grilled Sour Dough

Toast or char grill a slice of sour dough bread, spread with some rillette mixture. Top with a few tiny rocket leaves and some chive or wild garlic flowers.



Pomelo, Grape, Pomegranate and Ruby Grapefruit Salad


A deliciously refreshing starter before you tuck into the Christmas feast. If you can’t find a Pomelo, the giant of the citrus fruit family then just increase the number of Ruby grapefruit.


Serves 10


1 Pomelo

3 Ruby Grapefruit

30 grapes

1 pomegranate

2 tablespoons finely chopped mint

2 tablespoons castor sugar or more if necessary


Peel and carefully segment the pomelo.  The segments are very large so cut into triangular shape pieces across the grain and put into a bowl.  Peel and segment the grapefruit in the same way but leave the segments whole and add to the pomelo.  Peel and pip the grapes and add to the citrus fruit in a bowl. Cut the pomegranate in half around the equator.  Hold it cut side on the palm of your hand, bash the skin side with the bowl of the wooden spoon, this will loosen the seeds from between the membrane, add to the fruit. Sprinkle with sugar and mint. Taste, add more sugar if necessary. Chill before serving in pretty white bowls or glasses with a sprig of mint on top.


Note: Sweeties, Ugli Fruit or ordinary Grapefruit may also be used in this recipe.

This cocktail is also delicious without the pomegranate.



Old Fashioned Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing


Serves 10-12



This is my favourite roast stuffed turkey recipe. You may think the stuffing seems dull because it doesn’t include exotic-sounding ingredients like chestnuts and spiced sausage meat, but in fact it is moist and full of the flavour of fresh herbs and the turkey juices.  Cook a chicken in exactly the same way but use one-quarter of the stuffing quantity given.


(4.5-5.4kg) 1 x 10-12lb, free-range and organic, turkey with neck and giblets


Fresh Herb Stuffing

170g (6ozs) butter

350g (12oz) chopped onions

400-500g (14-16ozs) approx. soft breadcrumbs (check that the bread is non GM) (or approximately 1lb 4ozs of gluten-free breadcrumbs)

50g (2oz) freshly chopped herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, savoury, lemon balm

salt and freshly ground pepper



neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone and wingtips of turkey

2 sliced carrots

2 sliced onions

1 stick celery

bouquet garni

3 or 4 peppercorns


For basting the turkey

225g (8ozs) butter

large square of muslin (optional)


cranberry sauce

bread sauce



large sprigs of fresh parsley or watercress


Remove the wishbone from the neck end of the turkey, for ease of carving later. Make a turkey stock by covering with cold water the neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone, wingtips, vegetables and bouquet garni. (Keep the liver for smooth turkey liver pate).  Bring to the boil and simmer while the turkey is being prepared and cooked, 3 hours approx.



To make the fresh herb stuffing: Sweat the onions gently in the butter until soft, for 10 minutes approx., then stir in the crumbs, herbs and a little salt and pepper to taste.  Allow it to get quite cold.  If necessary wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half-fill with cold stuffing.  Put the remainder of the stuffing into the crop at the neck end. 


Weigh the turkey and calculate the cooking time. Allow 15 minutes approx. per lb and 15 minutes over. Melt the butter and soak a large piece of good quality muslin in the melted butter; cover the turkey completely with the muslin and roast in a preheated moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/regulo 4, for 2 3/4-3 1/4 hours.  There is no need to baste it because of the butter-soaked muslin.  The turkey browns beautifully, but if you like it even browner, remove the muslin 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time.  Alternatively, smear the breast, legs and crop well with soft butter, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  If the turkey is not covered with butter-soaked muslin then it is a good idea to cover the whole dish with tin foil.  However, your turkey will then be semi-steamed, not roasted in the traditional sense of the word. 


The turkey is cooked when the juices run clear.


To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices: they should be clear.  Remove the turkey to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow it to rest while you make the gravy.   .


The turkey is done when the juices run clear. To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices, they should be clear. Remove the turkey to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow it to rest while you make the gravy.


To make the gravy: Spoon off the surplus fat from the roasting pan. De glaze the pan juices with fat free stock from the giblets and bones. Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelised meat juices from the roasting pan. Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve in a hot gravy boat.


If possible, present the turkey on your largest serving dish, surrounded by crispy roast

potatoes, and garnished with large sprigs of parsley or watercress and maybe a sprig of holly. Make sure no one eats the berries.


Serve with Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce (for recipes for both of these visit )




Traditional Roast Goose with Seville Orange Sauce


Serves 8-10


1 x free range, Irish goose, about 4.5kg (10lb)

salt and freshly ground pepper


Seville Orange Sauce

2 x organic orange

6 tablespoons granulated sugar

5 fl ozs (126ml) red wine vinegar

5 fl ozs (126ml) red wine

1 pint (600ml) goose, duck or chicken stock (made from the giblets)

8 fl ozs (220ml) Port

1 – 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

salt, pepper and a few drops of lemon juice


4 tblsp Seville orange marmalade

watercress salad – (optional)


To prepare the goose, gut the bird and singe off the pin feathers and down if necessary. Remove the wishbone from the neck end and add to the giblet stock.

Season the cavity of the goose with salt and freshly ground pepper; also rub a little salt into the skin.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Roast the goose for about 2 hours or until the juices run clear. Prick the thigh at the thickest part to check the juices. If they are still pink, the goose needs to cook a little bit longer.

Meanwhile make the sauce – Scrub the orange.  Peel the zest with a swivel top peeler and cut two thirds into fine julienne strips, blanch and refresh.

Boil the sugar and vinegar in a heavy bottomed saucepan over moderately high heat for several minutes until the mixture has turned chestnut brown coloured syrup.  Remove from the heat immediately and pour in 1/4 pint (150ml) of the stock.  Simmer for a minute, stirring to dissolve the caramel. Then add the rest of the stock, port, wine and juice of one orange. Simmer until the sauce is clear and lightly thickened; add the orange liqueur little by little.  Add the blanched orange julienne.  Taste, correct the seasoning and sharpen with lemon juice if necessary, leave aside.  The sauce may be prepared to this point several hours in advance.

When the goose is cooked, remove the bird to a serving dish and put it in a very low oven while you reheat the orange sauce.

Carve the goose. Serve it with the Seville orange sauce and a watercress salad.



Sticky Toffee Christmas Pudding


A delicious alternative to plum pudding.


Serves 8-10


8 ozs (225g) chopped dates (use block dates)

1/2 pint (300ml) tea

4 ozs (110g) unsalted butter

6 ozs (175g) castor sugar

3 eggs

8 ozs (225g) self-raising flour

1 teaspoon bread soda

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon Espresso coffee


Hot Toffee Sauce

4 ozs (110g) butter

6 ozs (175g) dark soft brown,Barbadossugar

4 ozs (110g) granulated sugar

10 ozs (285g) golden syrup

8 fl ozs (225ml) cream

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


2 pint pudding bowl


8 inch (20.5cm) spring form tin with removable base or a heavy cake tin


Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4.


Soak the dates in hot tea for 15 minutes.   Brush the cake tin with oil and place oiled greaseproof paper on the base.


Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then fold in the sifted flour.  Add the sieved bread soda, vanilla extract and coffee to the date and tea and stir this into the mixture.   Turn into the bowl and cover with parchment paper – cook for 1-1 1/2 hours or until a skewer comes out clean. (Alternatively cook in a spring form tin.)


To make the sauce

Put the butter, sugars and golden syrup into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt gently on a low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla extract. Put back on the heat and stir for 2 or 3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth.


To Serve

Pour some hot sauce on to a serving plate. Turn out the sticky toffee pudding, pour lots more sauce over the top. Put the remainder into a bowl, and to serve with the pudding as well as softly whipped cream.


Hot Tips


Christmas Markets…

Mahon Point Farmers Market has a special Christmas market on Thursday 22nd December of December from 10am to 3pm when the artisan food producers will be joined by crafts people


All-Weather Christmas Markets at the Milk Market Limerick on Saturday, December 17, 2011, 08.00am to 4.00pm and Sunday, December 18, 2011, 11am to 4pm –

Midleton Farmers Market – Christmas Market is on Saturday 24th December – 9.00am to 2.00pm

Douglas Farmers Market – Christmas Market on Saturday 24th December – outsideDouglas Court Shopping


Mary Dowey’s Weekend Wine Course at Ballymaloe House – Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th March 2012 – the perfect gift for a wine. Learn the essentials of wine appreciation while enjoying superb food, great wines and good company in one of Ireland’s loveliest country houses. To purchase a gift voucher or to book Tel: 00 353 (0)21 4652531


A membership to Slow Food or a subscription to the Food and Wine Magazine would be a really welcome Christmas gift for a foodie friend.




Hand-made for Christmas

More edible presents this week as promised. Several readers gave me a blow by blow account of making their Christmas cake; one complained that the top of her cake had got burnt, even though she had followed the recipe exactly – so upsetting. She hadn’t realised that if one is using a fan-assisted oven the heat is more intense. Consequently it is necessary to reduce the temperature by 10 % or 20 % depending on the brand of oven. Try to find the instruction manual or ask the suppliers. If you have a choice, cook all the cakes and biscuits in a conventional oven which is a less ‘drying heat’. However a fan oven is particularly good for meringues. We’ve been experimenting with lots of flavours of meringues – the super-size ones that our friends at Ottolegnhi in London made famous. A cellophane bag of these with a big bow would be very impressive. Pop a jar of Glenilen clotted cream in too, to complete the delicious gift. Panforte di Siena is a dense Italian cake, solid with nuts and toasted fruit, a gorgeous gift and a terrific standby for when you feel like a little nibble of something rich and fruity. It keeps for months in a tin so even if you forget about it, it will still be surprisingly delicious.

Nougat is also surprisingly easy to make, wrap the homemade bars in cellophane and embellish with hand written labels.

Homemade marshmallow and honeycomb are fantastic fun to make; they fluff up and give you lots of ‘bang for your buck’! A jar of Green & Black organic chocolate powder with a bag of marshmallows makes an inexpensive yet indulgent pressie. Dip some of the honeycomb in chocolate – oh so good, you may have to resist nibbling it yourself. Maybe you could include a recipe for honeycomb ice-cream.

You’ll have egg yolks left over from meringues so how about a few little pots of white chocolate mousse. These need to be made closer to Christmas but will keep covered in the fridge for 5 or 6 days. In Summer I love them with raspberry coulis but a bitter dark chocolate sauce and a kumquat compote is a delicious accompaniment.

Making homemade mustard is serious one-upmanship but in fact it’s much easier to make than biscuits cakes or cookies. Add it to a little hamper with a few jars of relish, pickles and chutney. The perfect gift to accompany and liven up cold meats after Christmas.

Goats cheese preserved in oil and honey with walnuts are a complete doddle to make, add a packet of Gubbeen or Sheridans homemade biscuits and a bottle of Albert i Noya organic wine to the hamper for extra wow factor. The honey would be delicious drizzled over some Blue Cheese – Fermoy Farmhouse Cheese have just started to make a feisty blue – be the first to serve it at your Christmas dinner party– time to get busy – more next week

All recipes taken from ‘Gifts from the Kitchen’ by Annie Rigg published by Kyle Cathie

Pink Raspberry Swirl Meringues

These meringues are big, pillowy sugary treats. Package these large clouds of raspberry swirled meringues in individual boxes lined with paper or in cellophane bags. They are delicious eaten on their own or with a generous spoonful of softly whipped double cream and a handful of fresh raspberries.

Makes 4 – 6 large meringues


300g caster sugar

4–5 large egg whites, weighing 150g

pinch of salt

½ teaspoon red food-colouring paste

2 tablespoons raspberry flavouring, optional

3–4 tablespoons (25g) freeze-dried raspberry crispies


Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 and line a solid baking sheet with non-stick baking parchment.

Put the sugar into a small roasting tin and heat in the preheated oven for about 7 minutes, or until hot to the touch.

Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of a free-standing electric mixer and whisk until light and foamy. Remove the hot sugar from the oven and turn the temperature down to 110°C/225°F/gas mark 1/4. Quickly tip the sugar on to the egg whites and whisk on medium speed for 8–10 minutes, until the meringue is very stiff, white and cold.

Using a wooden skewer, dot the food colouring and drizzle the raspberry flavouring over the meringue mixture, then scatter over the raspberry crispies. Using a large metal spoon, very lightly fold in, using 3 or 4 strokes of the spoon, so that the meringue is marbled with pink.

Spoon the mixture on to the prepared baking sheet in 4–6 large peaky meringue shapes, and bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 11/2–13/4hours, or until crisp. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking sheet.

*Package in pretty boxes or cellophane bags. They will keep for 3 days in an airtight box.


Chock full of nuts, dried fruit and spices – panforte is delicious dusted with icing sugar, cut into small wedges or squares and served after dinner with coffee. Originally from Sienna and although not specifically a festive treat it would certainly make an ideal Christmas present. Annie has suggested making it into two smaller cakes so that you can make two gifts at once.

Makes 2 Cakes

sunflower oil, for greasing

100g (3 ½ oz)blanched almonds

100g (3 ½ oz) blanched hazelnuts

75g (3oz) unsalted shelled pistachios

300g (10 ½ oz) mixed dried fruits, including apricots, candied peel, raisins, figs and medjool dates, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

90g (3 ¾ oz) plain flour

1 rounded tablespoon cocoa

pinch of salt

175g (6oz) clear honey

175g (6oz) caster sugar

icing sugar, to serve


Grease 2 x 18cm round tins and line the base of each with a disc of rice paper.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Spread the almonds and hazelnuts on a baking tray and toast in the preheated oven for about 5–7minutes until lightly golden. Cool slightly, then roughly chop with the pistachios and tip into a large bowl. Add the chopped dried fruit and mix well. In another small bowl, mix together the spices, flour, cocoa and salt. Add to the dried fruit and nuts and mix until thoroughly combined. Lower the oven temperature to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2.

Combine the honey and sugar in a medium-sized pan and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 115°C/240°F on a sugar thermometer.

Remove from the heat, pour into the fruit and nut mixture and mix well. Spoon into the prepared tin and spread level.

Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 45–60 minutes, until firm. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin. Run a palette knife around the edge of the tin and carefully ease out the panforte. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

*Stored in an airtight container, panforte will keep for weeks.

Nougat with Cherries and Toasted Marcona Almonds

You could swap the almonds for blanched, toasted hazelnuts and dried figs and cranberries for the cherries and apricots. Make the nougat the day before you plan on eating it so that it has plenty of time to harden and set.

Makes about 20 squares


2 large sheets of rice paper

100g (3 ½ oz) blanched Marcona almonds

50g (2oz) shelled, unsalted pistachios

100g (3 ½ oz) natural coloured glacé cherries

50g (2oz) dried apricots

175g (6oz) clear orange blossom honey

300g (10 ½ oz) caster sugar

2 tablespoons water

1 large egg white

pinch of salt


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Lightly grease a 15cm square tin with a depth of 5cm, and line the base and sides with a sheet of rice paper.

Lightly toast the almonds and pistachios in a baking tray in the oven until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, then roughly chop. Cut the cherries in half, tip them into a sieve and rinse under cold running water. Dry well on kitchen paper. Roughly chop the dried apricots.

Place the honey, caster sugar and water in a medium pan. Set the pan over a medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat, bring the mixture to the boil, and continue to cook for about 10 minutes, until it reaches 164°C/327°F on a sugar thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk the egg white with a pinch of salt in a large heatproof bowl until it holds soft peaks – I recommend a free-standing mixer as it will make the process a lot easier. Continue to whisk while adding the hot honey caramel mixture in a steady stream. Keep whisking until the mixture stiffens, thickens and turns pale cream-coloured. Add the nuts and dried fruit and stir to combine. Spoon into the prepared tin and spread level. Press another sheet of rice paper on top and set aside to cool.

Once cold, tip the nougat out on to a board and cut into pieces.

*Package in small quantities in transparent cellophane bags. Stored in an airtight container, the nougat will keep for 4–5 days.

Pink and White Vanilla Marshmallows

Homemade marshmallows are the stuff of dreams! They are light as pink fluffy clouds, oh-so-sweet and with just a hint of pure vanilla extract. Cut into squares and package into pink- and white-striped bags for a pretty present.

Makes about 30

1 tablespoon icing sugar

1 tablespoon cornflour

2 tablespoons powdered gelatin

400g (14oz) granulated sugar

50g (2oz) golden syrup

2 large egg whites

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pink food colouring paste


Mix the icing sugar and cornflour in a small bowl. Lightly grease a 23cm square tin with a depth of about 5cmwith a little sunflower oil and dust with the icing sugar and cornflour mix, tipping out and reserving the excess.

Measure 6 tablespoons of cold water into another small bowl, sprinkle over the gelatin and set aside.

Tip the sugar into a medium-sized pan, add 250mlwater and the golden syrup and place the pan over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring the mixture to the boil and continue to cook steadily until the syrup reaches 120°C/250°F on a sugar thermometer. Remove from the heat, add the sponged gelatin and stir until thoroughly combined and the gelatin has melted.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Add a pinch of salt and whisk until the whites hold a stiff peak. Add the vanilla and the hot gelatin syrup in a steady stream and continue to whisk for a further 3–4 minutes, until the mixture will hold a ribbon trail when the beaters are lifted from the bowl.

Pour half the mixture into the prepared tin in an even layer. Add a tiny amount of pink food colouring paste to the remaining mixture and stir until evenly coloured. Pour the pink marshmallow over the white and leave to set (at least 2 hours).

Once the marshmallow has completely set, dust the work surface or a board with the remaining icing sugar and corn-flour mixture. Carefully tip the marshmallow out on to the prepared board and cut into squares, using a sharp knife. Dust the individual marshmallows before packaging.

* Package in striped paper bags. Stored in an airtight box, the marshmallow will keep for 3 days.


Honeycomb and chocolate – the perfect little stocking filler!

Makes about 20 pieces

300g (10 ½ oz) caster sugar

150g (5oz) golden syrup

pinch of cream of tartar

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

11/2teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

150g (5oz) dark or milk chocolate

Line a 20cm square baking tin with lightly oiled foil. Half fill the sink with cold water and have ready a whisk and the bicarbonate of soda.

Tip the sugar, syrup, cream of tartar and vinegar into a medium-sized, solid-based pan. Add 5 tablespoons water and set the pan over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then bring the mixture to the boil. Continue to cook until the mixture turns amber-coloured and reaches ‘hard crack’ stage, or 154°C/300°F on a sugar thermometer.

As soon as the caramel reaches the right temperature, remove the pan from the heat and plunge into the sink of cold water to speed up the cooling process. Working quickly, tip the bicarbonate into the caramel and whisk to combine evenly; the mixture will foam up like a mini volcano. Pour into the prepared tin in an even layer and leave to cool.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water and stir until smooth. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Turn the honeycomb out of the tin, peel off the foil and break into chunks. Half dip each piece into the melted chocolate. Leave to harden before packaging.

*Stored in an airtight container, it will keep for 2–3 days.

Wholegrain Honey Mustard

Makes 3 Jars

225g (8oz) mixed yellow and brown mustard seeds

1 teaspoon crushed dried chilli flakes

275ml (9fl oz) white wine vinegar or cider vinegar

1 cinnamon stick

4 tablespoons clear honey

1 teaspoon sea salt


Mix the mustard seeds, chilli flakes, vinegar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Cover and set aside for at least 12 hours and up to 24.

Remove and discard the cinnamon stick from the mustard seeds, add the honey and mix well. Transfer three-quarters of the mixture to either a food processor and blend until lightly crushed or pound the mustard using a pestle and mortar.

Combine with the remaining soaked mustard seeds and season with salt. Spoon into sterilised jars cover and seal before labeling.

*Store for months unopened in a cool, dry cupboard or larder.

Once opened, it will keep for 2–3 months at least in the fridge.



So brilliant to see so many schools pushing out the posts to reconnect children with how food is produced teaching them how to grow and cook – valuable skills for life. Midleton College is a shining example; they have 30 free-range hens, 5 Gloucester Old Spot pigs, a new home economics room and a chef who really cares about cooking food that nourishes the children and a headmaster – Simon Thompson – who inspires them all.Recently they self-published the Midleton College Cookbook with contributions from students and parents past and present. For €15.00 it’s really worth seeking out, there are quite a few gems in it.

Wild Spanish Figs – we got a box of gorgeous wild Spanish figs from Peter Wards Country Choice Shop in Nenagh. What other delicious surprises does he and Mary have in their shop in Nenagh and at the Milk Market in Limerick on Saturday mornings? 25 Kenyon Street, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary 067 32596
Santa arrives at 11.30am at Bandon Farmers Market on the Main Street on Saturday 17th December. The market will be back in it’s usual place in the post office car park for Christmas markets on the 23rd and 24th December from 9:30am to 1:30pm.

Homemade Christmas Presents

Christmas this year is for many people something to be dreaded rather than looked forward to with the usual joy and anticipation.

Everywhere one turns, there are a myriad of reminders of out of reach temptations.

The Christmas lights have been twinkling for several weeks now and this year I saw the first Christmas tree already bedecked with baubles and bows in mid November. There’s an understandable desperation in the retail world as they try to tempt us all to buy but if the money isn’t there, Christmas with all the glamour and glitz turns to torment.

A cook will always welcome a rosemary bush, plant it for remembrance. The aromatic spears can be plucked in every season to flavour lamb, chicken, pork, roast vegetables and jellies and sorbets. Choose a favourite farmhouse cheese and arrange for one to be sent by mail or courier once every 2-3 months. Alternatively choose a little hamper of Irish Farmhouse Cheese from Iago or On the Pig’s Back in the English Market in Cork, Sheridans in Galway or Dublin, or Peter Ward from Country Choice in Nenagh.

A gift token for the Midleton Farmers Market or tempting food and wine shops like Urru in Bandon or The Butlers Pantry inDublin, or one of the Avoca Shops is bound to be a hit.

However, there are many alternative ways to give a present, pledges on homemade little ‘gift vouchers’ cost nothing and give double pleasure, a gift of babysitting, cook dinner for the family, wash the car, walk the dog, Hoover the house…

Gifts that involve your time seem to have a different dimension and meaning plus an extra feel good factor.

Edible presents are also doubly welcome so this week and next, I’ll suggest lots of easy and delicious homemade gifts to charm your family and friends – not just fancy bottles that can sometimes sit on a kitchen shelf for years.  A few cartons of frozen homemade soup, a tagine or a gorgeous pot of comforting stew will be welcomed with open arms and greatly enjoyed at a later stage. So it doesn’t have to be fancy just delicious and after all the way to everyone’s heart is through their tummy at Christmas and throughout the year.


Winter Root Vegetable Soup

A mixture of carrot and parsnip would also make a delicious soup if you can’t find celeriac andJerusalemartichokes. Easy, cool and fill into the carton, cover and freeze and label.



Serves 12 approx.



125g/ 4½oz celeriac

250g/9oz parsnips


or whatever combination of vegetables you fancy or have to hand.

1.1kg (2 1/2lb) carrots, preferably organic, chopped

90g (3oz) butter

225g (8oz) onion, chopped

275g (10oz) potatoes, chopped

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

sprig of spearmint

2.4L (4 pints) homemade light chicken or vegetable stock

124ml (5 fl ozs) creamy milk, (optional)

6 teaspoons freshly chopped spearmint

1 teaspoon thyme leaves



a little lightly whipped cream or crème frâiche

parsley springs


Melt the butter and when it foams add the peeled and chopped vegetables, season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add thyme leaves, cover with a butter paper (to retain the steam) and a place with a tight fitting lid. Leave to sweat gently on a low heat for about 10 minutes approx. Remove the lid, add the boiling stock and cook until the vegetables are soft, alternatively add 3 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Alternatively, puree the soup until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add a little creamy milk if necessary.

If serving immediately, garnish with a swirl of lightly whipped cream or crème frâiche and some parsley sprigs.



Tagine of Lamb with Preserved Lemon


Any tagine, stew or casserole can be make in large quantities and gifted in portions for 1 to 2 people – easily defrosted and enjoyed. Don’t forget to add reheating and serving instructions to your label.


Serves 6


1.35kg (3 lbs) boned shoulder of lamb

scant 1 dessertspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

generous pinch saffron

50g (2ozs) unsalted butter

2 onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped


175g (6ozs) raisins, soaked in water and drained

2 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons chopped coriander


1 tablespoon oil

50g (2ozs) flaked almonds

1 preserved lemon (half if large) optional

fresh coriander leaves

natural yoghurt


Trim the lamb, discarding excess fat. Cut into 1 1/2 inch (4cm) cubes. Mix cinnamon, ginger, pepper and saffron with 4 tablespoons water. Toss the lamb in this mixture. If you have time, leave to marinade for up to 24 hours.


Melt the butter in a wide pan. Add the lamb, onions, garlic, salt and enough water to come half way up the meat. Bring up to the boil, cover and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for about an hour, turning the lamb occasionally until the meat is meltingly tender. Add the drained raisins, honey and half the coriander. Continue simmering for a further 30 minutes or so, uncovered until the sauce is thick and unctuous. Taste and adjust seasoning.


While the tagine is cooking, scoop out the flesh out of a preserved lemon, chop up the peel.  Fry the almonds in the oil until almost golden brown. Then add the diced lemon and toss 2 or 3 times. Drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle preserved lemon, almonds and remaining coriander over the lamb just before serving. Natural yoghurt makes a delicious accompaniment.

Note: No need to serve any vegetable, but a green salad would be a delicious


Beetroot and Ginger Relish


This sweet sour relish is particularly good with cold meats and coarse country terrines and keeps for ages, pretty labels and ribbons and maybe a sprig of holly will make it all the more festive.


1 1/2 ozs (45g) butter

8 ozs (225g) onion, chopped

3 tablespoons sugar

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 lb (450g) raw beetroot, peeled and grated

1 fl oz (25ml) sherry vinegar

4 fl ozs (120ml) red wine

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger


Sweat the onions slowly in butter, they should be very soft, add sugar and seasoning and allow to brown slightly.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook gently for 30 minutes.  Serve cold.


This relish keeps for ages.


Janie’s Green Tomato Jam


If you or some of your friends still have some green tomatoes, this is a completely delicious jam which can be used for sweet or savoury dishes. Delicious with cold meats and pâte.  We use the green fruit for chutneys for predictable things like fried green tomatoes and chutneys.


Makes 2 small jars


500g (18oz) green tomatoes

450ml (16fl oz) water

300g (11oz) granulated sugar

finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon


Wash and slice the tomatoes (no need to peel), and place in a large pan with the water. Bring to the boil then simmer covered for 50-60 minutes until tender. Add remaining ingredients over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.


Boil rapidly for 10 –12 minutes or until setting point is reached.



Blood Plum and Apple Chutney

Particularly delicious with cold ham, pot in small jars.


Makes 7 x 200ml (7fl oz) small jars


110ml (4 fl ozs) cider or wine vinegar

175g (6ozs) caster sugar

1 cinnamon stick

2 star anise

1/2 teaspoon peeled and grated ginger

900g (2lb) blood red plums, stoned and chopped

900g (2lb) Bramley apples, peeled and chopped


Put the vinegar and sugar in a stainless steel saucepan with the cinnamon, star anise and ginger.  Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Add the chopped plums and apples, simmer gently for about 40 minutes until the plums and apples are tender and the liquid is thick.  Pour into jars.  Cover and keep in the fridge.

Ballymaloe Mincemeat

This mincemeat is the most delicious I know, add a few recipe suggestions to the basket, it’s great in pies, tarts, ice-cream…


Makes 3.2 kilos approx. Makes 8-9 pots.


2 cooking apples, eg. Bramley Seedling

2 organic lemons

450g (1lb) beef suet

pinch of salt

110g (4oz) mixed peel (preferably homemade)

2 tablespoons orange marmalade

225g (8oz) currants

450g (1lb) sultanas

900g (2lbs)Barbadossugar (moist, soft, dark-brown)

62ml (2 1/2fl oz) Irish whiskey


Core and bake the whole apples in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4, for 30 minutes approx. Allow to cool.  When they are soft, remove the skin and mash the flesh into pulp.  Grate the rind from the lemons on the finest part of a stainless steel grater and squeeze out the juice and stir into the pulp.  Add the other ingredients one by one, and as they are added, mix everything thoroughly.  Put into sterilized jars, cover and leave to mature for 2 weeks before using.  This mincemeat will keep for a year in a cool, airy place.



Hot Tips


Free Range Turkeys and Geese for Christmas

If you haven’t already ordered your turkey or goose…

East Ferry Free Range deliver fresh, oven ready White and Bronze Turkeys and Geese all over Ireland. Robbie Fitzsimmons can do last minute deliveries too 0862056020 or email

Philip Monks from Monksfarm,  Ballyvaughan, Co Clare delivers fresh free-range Bronze turkeys and Legarth geese (traditional white geese)  to the Dublin, Limerick and Galway areas, he’ll also take orders right up to the last minute… Order online or phone Philip direct 086-8735565


Seek out Riverlane Panforte – a small Italian cake with an intense flavour made from Irish honey, home-made candied peel, Bandon Creamery butter and nuts -  available in Urru Bandon, the ABC stall (Alternative Bread Company) in the English Market and Riverlane Café in Ballineen, Co Cork – Susan Fehily – 0238847173 – Perfect when you feel like a slice of something.


I’ve just discovered Highbank Organic Orchard Syrup “Irelands answer to maple syrup” it’s a sweet and delicious, pouring syrup, the first of its kind. The organic apples are grown and produced by Highbank Orchards in Kilkenny – no pesticides, no artificial fertilisers or preservatives. The syrup keeps for ages and is delicious drizzled over goat cheese, ice-cream, coarse pate, ham, pork, yoghurt..Available at Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop – 021 4646785 –



Christmas Cakes

I’ve just had an ‘oh my god’ moment where the penny has dropped that Christmas day is a mere 28 days away. It’s seems to have crept up on me and I haven’t cooked a single thing yet. In this column I will give a variety of Christmas cake and some pudding recipes. The richest can be made this weekend while the others can be whipped up closer to the time or even the day before.

This year I have decided to bake two layers of almond paste into my rich fruit cake. I adore almond paste, it’s really easy to make and adds moistness and richness to the cake. As ever fantastic ingredients make a fantastic cake, use fine Irish butter, really good eggs organic
or least free range and best quality plump dried fruit. If you are going to make a cake it might as well be delicious!

A rich fruit cake keeps brilliantly for months. I love a finger of cake with a cup of tea or strong coffee but not everyone wants to have the remains of the Christmas cake – no matter how delicious – in a tin for months on end. So, why not consider making three smaller cakes
from once the recipe this year – keep one for yourself and wrap the others in lots of tinsel and tissue – perfect presents for busy friends. The same can apply to plum puddings, a little slice is the quintessential taste of Christmas but no-one wants to have cold plum pudding hanging around for weeks after the festive season.

Once the recipe here makes 12 x ½ pint puddings each of which serves two greedy people or four who would enjoy just a few juicy morsels of plum pud.

So this weekend gather up the ingredients, root out the wooden spoon, pudding bowls and cake tins, gather the children around and have a fun baking session and pass on the skills at the same time – remember how much we all loved licking the wooden spoon!


Christmas Cake with Glazed Fruit and Nuts

This makes a moist cake which keeps very well.  It can either be made months ahead or if you are frenetically busy it will still be delish even if made just a few days before Christmas – believe me I know! If the children help to chop the cherries and prepare the ingredients it will take the mystery out of ‘making the cake’ and pudding, so you’ll have given them a skill for life.


225g (8 ozs) butter

225 g (8 ozs) pale, soft-brown sugar or golden castor sugar

6 organic free-range eggs

285g  (10 ozs) plain white flour

1 teaspoon mixed spice

65 ml (2 1/2  fl ozs) Irish whiskey

340 g (12 ozs) best-quality sultanas

340 g (12 ozs) best- quality currants

340 g (12 ozs) best-quality raisins

110 g (4ozs) real glacé cherries

110 g (4ozs) homemade candied peel (see recipe)

55 g (2 ozs) ground almonds

55 g (2 ozs) whole almonds

rind of 1 organic unwaxed lemon

rind of 1 organic unwaxed orange

1 large or 2 small Bramley Seedling apples, grated no need to peel


Almond Paste


450 g (1 lb) ground almonds

450 g (1 lb) golden castor sugar

2 small organic or free-range eggs

a drop of pure almond essence

2 tablespoons Irish whiskey


Angelica, dried apricots, pecans, glacé cherries, peeled whole almonds,


To Brush on the Cake


Apricot Glaze – 12 ozs approx

1 x 9 inch round tin or 3 x 7 inch round tins.

Line the base and sides of the tin/s with a double thickness of parchment paper. Tie a double layer of brown paper around the outside of the tin / tins.  Have a sheet of parchment or brown paper to lay on top of each tin during cooking.

Wash the cherries and dry them gently.  Cut in two or four as desired.  Blanch the almonds in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, rub off the skins and chop them finely.  Mix the dried fruit, nuts, ground almonds and grated orange and lemon rind.  Add about half of the whiskey and leave for 1 hour to macerate.

First make the almond paste. Sieve the castor sugar and mix with the ground almonds.  Beat the eggs, add the whiskey and 1 drop of pure almond essence, then add to the other ingredients and mix to a stiff paste. (You may not need all of the egg).  Sprinkle the work top with icing sugar, turn out the almond paste and work lightly until smooth. 

Preheat the oven to 150°C/315°F/gas mark 2 1/2.

Cream the butter until very soft, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Whisk the eggs and add in bit by bit, beating well between each addition so that the mixture doesn’t curdle.  Mix the spice with the flour and stir in gently.  Add the grated cooking apple to the fruit and mix in gently but thoroughly (don’t beat the mixture again or you will toughen the cake).

Divide the mixture into three equal parts, put one part into the prepared cake tin.  Divide the almond paste into two; roll each into a round slightly smaller than the tin. Lay one on top of the cake mixture, cover with another third of the mixture. Lay another round of almond paste and the remainder of the cake mixture.

If using smaller tins, divide each third of the mixture into 3 and the almond paste into six pieces and follow the method as above.

Make a slight hollow in the centre, dip your hand in water and pat it over the surface of the cake: this will ensure that the top is smooth when cooked.  

Lay a double sheet of brown paper on top of the cake to protect the surface from the direct heat.  Put into the preheated oven. After one hour reduce the heat to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2. 

Bake until cooked; test in the centre with a skewer – it should come out completely clean after a further 3 hours approx, in total.

Pour the rest of the whiskey over the cake and leave to cool in the tin. 

Next day remove from the tin.  Do not remove the lining paper but wrap in some extra greaseproof paper and tin foil until required.  Store in a cool dry place, the longer the cake is stored the more mature it becomes.

A couple of days before Christmas remove the paper from the cake. Brush with apricot glaze, arrange nuts and dried fruit in a circular pattern on top. Brush more apricot glaze over the nuts and fruit. Wrap a ribbon around the edge and tie a bow. Place on a plate, admire your handy work and enjoy!



Children’s Christmas Cake

I found this recipe while researching for the revised edition of my Traditional Food Book. Nancy Elliott lived in Clones, Co Monaghan. She married in 1865 and had eleven children.  She was a keen baker and had a large collection of cake recipes including this which she made especially for her children.

Serves 8


75g (3oz) soft butter

100g (3 ½ oz) castor sugar

3 eggs

1 tablespoonful milk

1 tablespoonful of cream

juice of a lemon

110g (4oz) sultanas

1 teaspoonful baking powder

225g (8oz) cream flour – add as much flour as will make a stiff dough 

Tin Size: 18 cm (7 inch) round tin line the base and sides with greaseproof paper.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Mark 4. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and light. Add the eggs one by one. Beating well after each addition. Stir in the milk, cream, lemon juice and sultanas. Sieve the flour and baking powder together, fold into the mixture. Place in the prepared tin and bake in the pre-heated oven for 1 – 1 ¼  hours.

Decorate it with red and white sugar.  Do not cut till 2 days old.

Mummy’s Plum Pudding


It has always been the tradition in our house to eat the first plum pudding on the evening it is made.   The grandchildren can hardly contain themselves with excitement – somehow that plum pudding seems the most delicious, it’s our first taste of Christmas.   The plum pudding can be made from about mid-November onwards. Everyone in the family helps to stir so we can all make a wish.


Its fun to put silver plum pudding charms in the pudding destined to be eaten on Christmas Day.  Wrap them individually in silicone paper so they are bulky and clearly visible.


This recipe makes 2 large or 3 medium puddings.  The large size will serve 10-12 people, the medium,  6-8 but I also like to make teeny weeny ones.


12 ozs (350g) raisins

12 ozs (350g) sultanas

12 ozs (350g) currants

12 ozs (350g) brown sugar

12 ozs (350g) white breadcrumbs (non GM)

12 ozs (350g) finely-chopped beef suet

4 ozs (110g) diced candied peel (preferably home-made)

2 Bramley cooking apples, coarsely grated

4 ozs (110g) chopped almonds

rind of 1 lemon

3 pounded cloves (1/2 teaspoon)

a pinch of salt

6 eggs

2 1/2 fl ozs (62ml)JamaicaRum


Mix all the ingredients together very thoroughly and leave overnight; don’t forget, everyone in the family must stir and make a wish!  Next day stir again for good measure.  Fill into pudding bowls; cover with a double thickness of greaseproof paper which has been pleated in the centre, and tie it tightly under the rim with cotton twine, making a twine handle also for ease of lifting.


Steam in a covered saucepan of boiling water for 6 hours.  The water should come half way up the side of the bowl.  Check every hour or so and top up with boiling water if necessary.  After 5 hours, 3 hours, 2 hours depending on the size, remove the pudding.   Allow to get cold and re-cover with fresh greaseproof paper.  Store in a cool dry place until required.


On Christmas Day or whenever you wish to serve the plum pudding, steam for a further 2 hours.  Turn the plum pudding out of the bowl onto a very hot serving plate, pour over some whiskey or brandy and ignite.  Serve immediately on very hot plates with Brandy Butter.


You might like to decorate the plum pudding with a sprig of holly; but take care not to set the holly on fire – as well as the pudding!


Raisin Cake from the Blaskets


According to Máire Ní Ghuithín – who wrote Bean An OileáinRaisin Cake was the Christmas treat. On the Blaskets there was no need for a scales – the bag of raisins would be weighed in the shop. 

Every house had large mugs for tea hanging on the dresser in the kitchen; they would hold 175g (6oz) of flour.

The ingredients were as follows. 


3 mugfuls of white flour – 500g (1lb 2oz)

One rounded teaspoonful of baking-soda 

One rounded teaspoonful of salt

A small knob of butter 25g (1oz)

One egg beaten

Half a cupful of sugar 110g (4oz) Demerara

Half a pound of big raisins (with seeds removed) – muscatels (we used Lexia raisins)

Sour milk – we used 425ml (15fl) buttermilk


Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4

Line the base and sides of a 20cm (8inch) round tin with greaseproof or parchment paper.

All the ingredients, except the sour milk or yeast liquid were mixed together.  The mixture was then moistened with the sour milk.  Maire doesn’t say how long it took to bake the cake.  Sean Pheats Tom O Cearnaigh, also mentions in his 1992 book ‘Fiolar An Eireabaill Bhain’ that milk or cream, and ‘yeast flour’ were used to make a raisin cake, and that it was baked for an hour.

How we did it –

Sieve flour and bread soda into a bowl.  Add salt and sugar, rub in the butter.  Add the raisins and mix well.  Make a well in the centre, add the egg and sour milk and mix to a softish dough. Transfer into the lined tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour approx.

Cut in wedges and serve buttered.  This cake keeps well for a few days.


Mary Jo’s Stollen

Stollen is a favourite German Christmas Cake with a layer of almond paste baked into the centre.

Makes 2 700g (1 1/2lb) cakes


Brandied Fruit:

150g (5oz) mixed sultanas and currants

75g (3oz) diced candied cherries and citrus peel

1 1/2 tablespoons brandy


20g (3/4oz) fresh yeast (or 1 sachet dry yeast)

150ml (5fl oz) lukewarm milk

175g (6oz) strong white flour


75g (3oz) castor sugar

Grated rind 1/2 lemon

110g (4oz) softened butter

2 eggs

1 level teaspoon salt

275g (10oz) strong white flour



75g (3oz) ground almonds

60g (2 1/2oz) castor sugar

1 tablespoon egg white

Drop of almond essence


Melted butter

Icing sugar


Mix fruits, stir in brandy, cover with cling film and macerate overnight. 

To mix yeast sponge, crumble fresh yeast into warm milk in a Pyrex bowl.  Allow yeast to soften.  Mix in 175g (6oz) flour and beat well with a wooden spoon.  Cover with Clingfilm and allow to rest for 30-45 minutes.

Place 75g (3oz) castor sugar in a mixer bowl, grate in lemon rind and rub into sugar with your fingertips.  Add butter and beat until creamy.  Add eggs one at a time; add the salt and scrape down the bowl to make a soft creamed mixture.

When sponge is light and well risen, add to creamed mixture along with 275g (10oz) flour.  Scrape off K beater and replace with dough hook.  Knead on moderate speed for 10 minutes until is silky and soft.  The dough should not stick to your fingers.

Remove hook, cover bowl with Clingfilm and allow dough to rise until doubled in size.

Knock back dough and scrape out onto a flour-dusted clean surface.  Flatten to 1cm (1/2 inch) and sprinkle brandied fruit on top.  Roll up like a Swiss roll and knead fruit through dough.  The dough may grow sticky, but avoid adding more flour.  Scrape fruited dough into a bowl, cover with Clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.

Prepare the marzipan by mixing sugar, ground almonds and egg white.  Flavour with almond essence if desired.  Knead to a lump, divide in half and roll each half into a log.

Next day, remove dough from the fridge.  Scrape out of bowl onto a lightly floured surface and cut in half.  Shape each half into an oval and roll out to 2cm (3/4 inch) thickness.  Make an indentation lengthways along the centre and place in long sausage shape piece of marzipan.  Fold the oval in half with long sides meeting.  Press together and place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment.

Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise for 1-2 hours in a warm place until light.

Bake at 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4 for 30 minutes or until deeply golden and tests done.

While still hot, brush with melted butter and sift icing sugar thickly over the top.

Cool well before slicing.  Will keep wrapped for 4-5 days and may be frozen.

Hot Tips

Cork City Slow Food Event – Garden Talk with Kitty Scully – Kitty Scully of the RTE show ‘How to create a Garden’ is the guest speaker on Tuesday, 29th November at 7:30pm in the Blarney Garden Centre. Kitty will share her passion for all things gardening and growing, and will show how to prepare, design and care for a garden the organic way. To book email Price: €10 – includes tea/coffee, home baked scones, 10% discount in garden centre, printed information material.


Mary Dowey’s Weekend Wine Course at Ballymaloe House – Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th March 2012 – the perfect gift for a wine-lover – the course has become a firm fixture on the spring calendar at Ballymaloe House. Learn the essentials of wine appreciation while enjoying superb food, great wines and good company in one of Ireland’s loveliest country houses. To purchase a gift voucher or to book Tel: 00 353 (0)21 4652531


Two Christmas Cookery Courses at Ballymaloe Cookery School – an early Christmas present to bring good cheer and lift the spirits!  One day Christmas Cooking Part 3 Monday 12th December 9.30am to 5.00pm and Rachel Allen’s Festive Entertaining Part 2, two and half day practical hands on course Tuesday 13th to Thursday 15th December. To book 021 4646785 or online


Meat Free Monday

Meat Free Monday – The whole idea continues to garner approval – there’s a million good reasons why this is a brilliantly good idea. Between 1961 and 2007 the world population increased by a factor of 2.2. In the same period total meat production quadrupled and poultry consumption increased 10-fold. Consequently the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimate that livestock production is responsible for up to 18 % of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, although some estimates putting the figure as high as 50 %.

The main ‘baddies’ are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Methane is caused by ‘enteric fermentation’ – which in plain English means the burping and farting – by cows, sheep and goats. Nitrous oxide rises off slurry (manure) pits (primarily on pig farms) or is the by-product of the production of fertilisers. Carbon dioxide is produced when rainforests are cut down to make way for grazing cattle, or for growing crops to feed farmed animals. Carbon dioxide may get most of the publicity, but the other two are, if anything more serious, methane is 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide and remains in the atmosphere for 9 – 14 years. Nitrous oxide is 310 times more powerful that carbon dioxide and hangs around for up to 114 years. What this means is that gases that are being released today will continue to degrade the climate for eons to come.

As if that’s not enough, global meat production uses massive amounts of water, we may not have to worry about it in this country but the estimated 634 gallons of fresh water required to produce one 5.2 ounce (147g) beef burger would be enough for a 4 hour-shower. Like fossil fuels, fresh water supplies are running out in many parts of the world. The glaciers that are the source of many of the great rivers are melting due to climate change and the Ganges, the Niger and Yellow Rivers are drying up. As they disappear, so does the world’s available water.

Nutritionists and doctors remind us that there are definite health benefits to reducing our consumption of meat. According to the World Health Organisation we eat considerably more protein than is considered necessary or optimal for good health. A meat-and-dairy-heavy diet is now being linked to some of the world’s biggest killer diseases, cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Animal welfare issues involved with some intensive methods of food production continue to cause concern and then there are the fish: it has been estimated that if current fishing trends continue, there will be no fish left by 2048. Industrialised fishing vessels with their football-pitch sized nets or lines of hooks a mile long devastate coral reefs and ocean beds, kill and injure marine wildlife including dolphins, turtles and sea birds, and are pushing the oceans to the brink of environmental collapse.

In the current economic climate there are many other compelling reasons to remind ourselves that vegetables are by far the most important food group and to support The Meat Free Monday campaign – which was started by the McCartney family in St John’s Park in London in June 2009. Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney have now come together to write the foreword for Meat Free Monday Cookbook published by Kyle Books and packed with many delicious recipes where you won’t miss the meat.



Makes 12 servings.


Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Roughly chop 200g (7oz) mixed nuts such as almonds, pecan and hazelnuts and tip into a large bowl. Add 450g (1lb) rolled oats, 50g (2oz) sunflower seeds, 50g (2oz) pumpkin seeds, 50g (2oz) linseeds and 50g (2oz) desiccated coconut and mix well. Add 125ml (4fl oz) sunflower oil and 100ml (3½fl oz) runny honey and mix thoroughly to combine. Pour the mixture into a large roasting tin and spread into an even layer. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and crisp, stirring frequently so that the mixture toasts evenly. Remove from the oven and add 100g (4oz) roughly chopped dried cherries, cranberries or blueberries. Leave to cool before scooping into storage jars. Serve with fresh berries, organic milk or natural yogurt.


Potatoes With Hazelnuts and Rosemary

Simon Rogan

Serves 4

Take about 20g (3/4 oz) tiny rosemary needles from the bunch and set aside. Boil 450g pink fir potatoes with 25g (1oz) sprig of rosemary leaves. Meanwhile simmer 25g (1oz) hazelnuts in water for 4 minutes, drain, peel and pat dry. Gently fry the hazelnuts in a little hazelnut oil until golden brown, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, cool down and crush into smaller pieces. When the potatoes are cooked, peel, slice and fry in a generous amount of hazelnut oil until they are golden brown. Remove and drain onto kitchen paper, wipe clean the pan and place into it another 2 tablespoons of hazelnut oil with 100ml (3½fl oz) crème fraîche. Reduce until the sauce is the right consistency, add the rosemary needles and return the golden potato slices. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, place into a bowl and scatter over the fried hazelnut pieces.



Serves 4–6


Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. Remove the stalks from 250g kale and shred finely. Plunge into boiling water for 30–60 seconds, then refresh under cold water. Set aside. Melt 25g (1oz) butter in a saucepan, stir in 25g (1oz) plain flour and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually blend in 450ml (16fl oz) full fat organic milk, stirring well. Place back on the heat and bring gently to the boil, stirring continuously until thickened and smooth. Crumble in 125g (4 ½ oz) goat’s cheese. Add 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder and salt and freshly ground black pepper, and mix well. Place the kale in an ovenproof dish, then spoon over the sauce. Combine 75g (3oz) breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, and then spread evenly over the surface. Bake in the oven for 20–25 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.

Onion Bhajis with Tomato and Chilli Sauce

Serves 4

Onion bhajis are very popular in Britain but shop-bought ones can be greasy and tired. These ones are anything but. They are served with a feisty sauce that transforms what is usually thought of as a snack into a satisfying meal.

25g (1oz) green chillies, deseeded and chopped

1 red pepper, deseeded and cut in 5mm dice

1/2 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 teaspoon caster sugar

1 teaspoon soft brown sugar

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons water

salt and freshly ground pepper

110g (4oz) plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon chilli powder

2 organic eggs, beaten

150ml (5fl oz / ¼ pint) water

4 onions, thinly sliced in rings

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

sunflower oil


First make the sauce. Put the chillies, pepper, tomatoes and garlic into a stainless steel saucepan with the sugars, vinegar and water. Season and simmer for 10 minutes until reduced by half.

Sieve the flour, baking powder and chilli powder into a bowl. Make a well in the centre, add the eggs, gradually add in the water, mix to make a smooth batter. Stir in the thinly sliced onions and chives. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Just before serving heat the oil to 170°C /gas mark 3 1/2 approximately. Fry teaspoons of the batter in the sunflower oil for about 5 minutes on each side until crisp and golden, drain on kitchen paper. Serve hot or cold with the tomato and chilli sauce.



Guilt-free fast food! Perfect in a toasted bun, these deliciously spicy burgers will become firm family favourites and are guaranteed to convert even the most committed of carnivores.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

400g can lentils, drained and rinsed

400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon tahini paste

2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

1 large organic egg, beaten

100g (3 ½ oz) fresh breadcrumbs

100g (3 ½ oz) grated Gruyère

100g (3 ½ oz) feta, crumbled

plain flour, for dusting

salt and freshly ground black pepper

to serve

burger buns

shredded lettuce

sliced tomatoes

sliced red onions

sliced avocados

soured cream

tomato ketchup


pickles and relishes

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan, add the chopped onion and cook over a medium heat until tender but not coloured. Add the garlic, ground cumin and cayenne and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove from the heat.

Tip the lentils and chickpeas into the bowl of a food-processor and blend until coarsely chopped. Add the onion mixture, tahini paste and parsley, and blend again until combined and nearly smooth. Tip into a large bowl and add the beaten egg, breadcrumbs and both of the cheeses. Mix together using your hands and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Shape the mixture into patties and lightly dust in plain flour. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan, slide the burgers into the pan and cook until golden on both sides.

Serve in toasted buns with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and avocados and a dollop of soured cream, ketchup or mayonnaise and pickles of your choice.



Makes 12


Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with muffin cases. In a large mixing bowl, cream 75g unsalted butter and 150g (5oz) soft light brown sugar together until pale and creamy. Add 2 organic eggs 1 at a time, mixing all the time. The mixture might look split at this stage but, don’t worry, that’s normal. Sift 85g (3 ½ oz) plain flour and 85g (3 ½ oz) self-raising flour together into a bowl. Mix 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder and 90ml organic milk together in a separate bowl. Fold in one third of the flour mixture and beat well then half of the coffee mixture and beat well again. Repeat the process, beating well between each addition. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases until two thirds full. Bake for 20–25 minutes until golden brown and springy to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. For the topping, whisk 300ml (10fl oz /½ pint) whipping cream and 25g (2oz) icing sugar together to soft peaks. Spoon the cream into a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe swirls over the cupcakes. Decorate each cupcake with a chocolate-covered espresso bean and dust with drinking chocolate powder.



Serves 4–6


Preheat the oven to 190°C /gas mark 5. You will need an ovenproof dish 18cm long and 4cm deep. In a medium size saucepan bring 600ml organic milk and 284ml double cream to the boil over a moderate heat. Meanwhile mix together in a bowl 4 organic egg yolks and 125g (4 1/2oz) caster sugar. Pour over the organic milk and cream mixture, stir well to combine, then strain into a jug, adding a few drops of vanilla extract. Layer 1/4 sliced baguette in the bottom of the ovenproof dish, and scatter over 50g (4oz) sultanas and 50g (4oz) roughly chopped plain chocolate. Dip 1/4 sliced baguette in 50g (4oz) melted butter and lay the sliced on top of the sultanas. Pour over the custard mixture and leave to soak for 30 minutes, pushing the bread beneath the surface of the custard. Place the dish in a bain-marie (a roasting tin containing boiling hot water to reach to halfway up the sides of the ovenproof dish). Bake the pudding for 1 hour until golden brown. In a small saucepan heat together 4 tablespoons apricot jam and 2 tablespoons orange juice. Brush liberally over the bread and butter pudding and serve immediately.

Hot Tips

Ed Hick’s Bacon Jam – it’s a relish – savoury, tangy, delicious, great on toast with a fried egg on top or a burger relish or just simply spread on crusty bread with a slice of apple. It’s an easy and really yummy pasta dressing or for true addicts, just eat it by the spoon – it’s the porkiest, piquantest, sweet/sour chutney

Simplee Salt was created by Edel at her home and garden in East Cork – she grew more herbs in her garden that she knew what to do with so she started creating flavoured sea salts and which is now stocked in shops all over Ireland – look out for Simplee Salt – Fresh Herb, Chili and Whole Black Peppercorn Sea Salts in shops all over Ireland. See the website for a list of stockists…

 Planting an Orchard – Ballymaloe’s former head gardener Susan Turner has agreed to teach a half day workshop for anyone interested in creating a fruit orchard. The course is ideal for beginners and experienced gardeners alike who want to choose and establish varieties for a fruit orchard. Susan will talk through pruning of both newly planted trees and the cropping tree and also how to rejuvenate an old orchard. Susan is a gardener with an international reputation and clientele and is an inspirational teacher. The course starts at 9.00am on Monday 21st November and finishes at 2.00pm. It includes a delicious light lunch using ingredients from the farm. The cost is just €95.00. To book a place (a few still remaining) please call 021 4646785 or online at

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group presents – ‘Wines for Christmas’ – Choosing wines to suit Christmas fare, the best wines to buy this year and serving and storing wine with Colm McCan award winning sommelier from Ballymaloe House and Peter Corr experienced importer and distributor in the Cork area. Crawford Art Gallery Café, Cork – Thursday 24th Nov at 7.30pm – entrance 6 euro including tea & coffee

Georgina Campbell Awards 2012

Every year the Georgina Campbell Awards are eagerly awaited by the restaurant industry. Awards are always fun, they lift the spirits and generate extra buzz at any time but most particularly at present when so many businesses are being put to the pin of their collar even to survive. Georgina’s highly respected guide has been in operation since 1997, she continues to think outside the box. Innovation is the name of the game at the moment, everyone is trying desperately to find new ways to attract business, so this year she added four new awards and four new criteria awards to highlight establishments who are excelling in unexpected areas and targeting a particular clientele.

The Pet Friendly Hotel of the Year took my fancy, Derek Davis who presented the awards at Bord Bia in Dublin, quipped that “many people would rather leave their husband behind than the dog!.” and so were missing an opportunity… not so the Dunloe Castle Hotel in Killarney who, for a nominal charge per night, has created a pet-friendly environment with luxurious kennels or a dog friendly guest room with pet beds and pet treats – the only trouble is likely to be persuading them to hop in the car when it’s time to leave.

The Green Hospitality Award went to Cooperhill House Riverstown, Co Sligo, where the 500 acre estate of woodland and pasture supplies much of their food. They compost vegetable waste and use sustainably produced firewood. Georgina reminded us “that they were environmental centuries before it became fashionable” Café of the Year Award went to Builín Blasta Café in Spiddal, Co Galway. Where there was much praise for this little café owned by New Zealander J-me Peaker – “where tea is made with real leaf tea and baking is a genuine forte.” Sunday Lunch of Year was won by VW Restaurant Viewmount House, Co Longford. “Sunday lunch is back with a vengeance for family get-togethers – a real treat.”

The Casual Dining Award which acknowledges and highlights the quality of smaller establishments, especially those serving all day food, went to the Salty Dog Hotel and Bistro in Co Down as did the Hotel Breakfast of the Year Award. Outstanding Service Award went to the outstanding Chapter One Restaurant owned by Ross Lewis in Dublin. The Ethnic Restaurant of the Year Award went to Cava – Spanish Restaurant and Tapas Bar in Galway for its all day Tapas menu and for having brought “a true taste of the Iberian Peninsula to Galway City.”

Peter and Mary Ward of Country Choice in Nenagh, Co Tipperary scooped the first The Natural Food Award “who better to begin than with an establishment – coffee shop, retailer and artisan producer – that celebrates the simple good foods of the locality in simple words, meats, milk, cream, eggs, butter and flour: The economy of Tipperary is agricultural and we intend to demonstrate this with a finished product of tantalising smells and tastes.”

Cork picked up several other awards The Just Ask Restaurant of the Year went to the Farmgate Restaurant in the English Market, Pub of the Year 2012 award went to Mary Ann’s Bar and Restaurant Castletownsend and Ballymaloe House were very proud to win three awards – Good Cooking Award, Good Housekeeping Award and Best Breakfast Award 2012.

For a full list of award winners visit or better still buy the Georgina Campbell Guide 2012 and keep it in the glove compartment of your car.

Apple Muesli

Serves 2

This recipe can be made in a few minutes and is so full of vitamins you’ll be jumping out of your skin all day!

4 tablespoons rolled oats (the speedicook type)

3 tablespoons water

2 large dessert apples eg. Golden Delicious or Worcester Permain

4 apples eg. Cox’s Orange Pippin

1 teaspoon honey approx.

To Serve Soft brown sugar and maybe a little runny cream

Equipment 1 grater

Measure out the water into a bowl and sprinkle three tablespoons of oatmeal on top. Let the oatmeal soak up the water while you grate the apple. A stainless steel grater is best for this job, use the largest side and grate the apple coarsely, skin and all. I grate through the core, but watch your fingers when you are coming close to the end, pick out the pips and discard. Stir a tea spoonful of honey into the oatmeal and then stir in the grated apple, taste, if it needs a little more honey add it, this will depend on how much you heaped up the spoon earlier on. Divide it between two bowls. Have one yourself and give the other to your favourite person that morning. It should taste delicious just like that but will taste even scrummier if you sprinkle over a little soft brown Barbados sugar and a very little runny cream.

Peter Ward’s Pint Glass Soda Bread

This is one Peter’s signature recipes at Country Choice. It was put together in response to his sons request for nice bread when he was starting collage. He was a bit lazy and hated measurements etc. So Peter came up with this recipe as every student has a pint glass. He uses Macroom flour but any good wholemeal would do.

pint glass coarse flour

 pint glass white flour

 three quarters of a pint buttermilk

enough salt to coat the bottom of a pint glass

enough soda to coat the bottom of a pint glass

tablespoon butter

Mix dry. Add wet, shape and bake. We make a flat cake about 1 ½ inches high with a cross on it and bake it on the floor of the hot oven of the Aga. Alternatively, bake in an preheated oven – 230°C/450°F/Mark 8 – for 15 minutes then at 200°C/400°F/Mark 6 for a further 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Builín Blasta Café Organic Irish Salmon Fishcake

Makes 6  

500g (18oz) plain dry mashed potatoes

500g (18oz) organic salmon pieces (skin off & bone out) 

100mls (3½fl oz) white wine

1tbsp Dijon mustard

1tbsp tomato ketchup

1tbsp anchovy – chopped

salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/ Mark 4. Firstly poach the salmon in a small oven proof dish with the wine plus just enough water to cover. Bake with a lid on for approximately 15 minutes. Drain and flake into the mashed potatoes. Add the mustard, tomato ketchup and chopped anchovy, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and combine with a fork, taste and correct seasoning. Cool and store in the fridge for hour.  Divide into 6 and shape the fishcakes. Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a pan over a medium heat, fry the fishcakes for about 2 minutes and then transfer to the oven for 10-15 minutes. (Alternatively finish on the pan) J-Me likes to serve these with steamed green vegetables like kale or spinach and a sweet chilli sauce.  

Farmgate Restaurant’s Poached Leg of Mutton with Caper Sauce

The Just Ask Restaurant of the Year Award went to the Farmgate Restaurant in the English Market in Cork. Since opening in 1994 – well before most restaurateurs in Ireland thought it might be popular or profitable to focus on local produce and traditional dishes – Kay Harte’s café above the English Market in Cork has epitomised everything that is best about simple, wholesome, fresh Irish food that has travelled as short a distance as possible to reach the plates of their happy customers.

Serves 6/8

1 leg of mutton – around 2 ½ kg (5lbs 18oz)

300 ml (10fl oz /½ pint) of chicken stock (use low- salt bouillon if necessary),

enough water to cover mutton in the pot

bay leaves, onions, carrots and leeks (2 of each should do) (vegetables are used for flavouring the stock- discard after cooking)

Put all of the ingredients for the mutton into a large enough pot and bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer gently for 1 ½ – 1 ¼ hours. While the mutton is cooking you can get on with making the caper sauce – which can be kept warm until serving.

Caper Sauce

50g (2oz) butter

50g (2oz) plain flour


capers to taste (Kay Harte uses lots) optional:

a teaspoon of English mustard or a little anchovy is lovely.

Melt the butter (over a medium heat), then add the flour (classic Roux base). Stirring continuously, add 300ml (10floz / ½ pint) of heated milk and 300ml (10floz / ½ pint) of stock from the mutton pot. When bubbling, add in good quality roughly chopped capers and chopped parsley. Add in a drop of cream (mustard or anchovy if using), and season to taste. Remove from heat and keep warm until serving. Slice the mutton – and serve with caper sauce and steamed golden wonder potatoes in their jackets. Some fresh parsley looks lovely to finish.

Builín Blasta Café Chocolate & Beetroot Brownie

The beetroot can be added raw, all you need to do is peel and grate it but J-Me Peaker finds the outcome nicer if the fresh beetroot is cooked and grated. “The texture is soft and the flavour is fantastic.”

Makes 12  

185g (6 ½ oz) dark chocolate 70% cocoa solids

185g (6 ½ oz) butter

3 free-range eggs

440g (15 ½ oz) sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

155g (5 ¼ oz) white flour 300g (10 ½ oz) raw beetroot finely grated

8 inch round oven dish lined with greaseproof paper

Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Mark 3. Melt the chocolate & butter in a Pyrex bowl over a pot of lightly simmering water. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract – not too much, just give them a little beat to combine. Pour this into the melted chocolate and fold.  Add the flour and then the beetroot.  Pour in the brownie batter into the prepared tin. Bake for 45 minutes, cool, then cut into 10-12 pieces. Serve with lightly whipped cream. Enjoy! 


Midleton Farmer’s Market – Don’t miss the great new ‘Ms. Hederman’s’ stall piled high with irrisistible sweet puddings, pastries and petit fours…Try her chocolate and chestnut rum pots or the lemon creams, yummy. Every Saturday 9.30am to 2pm. Facebook: The Ms Hederman’s – 0868213984

Time to order your turkey or goose for Christmas – I’ll be looking for a bronze turkey this year. The Good Food Ireland website has a list of suppliers  You can also order Christmas geese and turkeys from Nora Aherne 021 4632354.

Darina Allen’s Cookbook of the Week – Tapas by Elisabeth Luard – A brilliant little book on Tapas by one of my favourite cookery writers of all time Elisabeth Luard. Elisabeth has been living in Spain for fifteen years and her seemingly effortless style of writing and understanding of the way in which ordinary people’s cooking reflects their history, culture and everyday life, makes her one of the most individual and distinctive food writers of all time. Tapas are the wonderfully tempting little dishes of food that are traditionally served with sherry in southern Spain. Beautifully simple, tantalisingly delicious and easy to prepare, they are perfect for all kinds of occasions. Perfect to nibble with drinks or a little selection makes an irresistible starter. Tapas are about brilliant ingredients; Elisabeth gives suggestions for tapas for different seasons and occasions. Published by Grub Street Press.

Artisan Brewing in Ireland

The whole artisan beer scene is going into orbit in Ireland. At present there are 14 or 15 craft brewers and the public, bored with the usual offerings, can’t get enough of it. These beers are incredibly diverse, some with citrus notes, others with a distinct hint of chocolate or bitter caramel. Just like the farmhouse cheeses, I always imagine that they reflect the personality of the brewers, eclectic feisty hand made beers with real character and flavour.

With an alcohol content of between 4 and 6 percent many are best drunk with food or enjoyed leisurely as you read the daily newspapers.

At one time in Ireland we had a vibrant regional beer industry with each town or country proud to drink their own beer. Our local brew, Perrys Ale was made in Rathdowney in Co Laois. Strangman’s Brewery in Waterford made a light beer with was enjoyed by the pupils at Newtown School in Waterford until it became quite the wrong thing for Quakers to have anything to do with beer! The tradition died out in the 20th Century as the larger brewers grew at expense of the independent brewers.

This week as part of the 12 week Certificate Course students school tour we visited the 8 Degree Brewery in Mitchelstown. There we found ‘two cocky foreign guys’ as Cameron Wallace from Australia and Scott Baigent from New Zealand describe themselves, having lots of fun making beer and jolly good it is too.

They were both lured to Ireland by their Irish wives. Scott, an ex-engineer is married to a past Ballymaloe Cookery School student and well known blogger, Caroline Hennessy – see

Cameron Wallace is an ex accountant, both were perplexed at the lack of choice on the beer scene in Ireland. As they travelled they did lots of research and eventually decided that brewing appealed to both of them, lots of piping and some paperwork – perfect!

They made a plan, did lots of home brewing, headed off to Germany to The Brewing Institute in Berlin, found a great warehouse outside Mitchelstown and started to brew. They managed to buy some great kit from the well established Carlow Brewery who was up scaling. All they needed was good malting barley, some hop pellets and a spirit of adventure and fun which they have in spades.

Last Easter they launched at the Franciscan Brewery in Cork and have already developed a cult following and are now available in 65 outlets.

So far there are three – Howling Gale, Knockmealdown Porter and Sunburnt Irish Red created for the Red Head Festival at Cronins in Crosshaven.

At a recent Slow Food feast in O’Briens Chop House in Lismore, 8 Degree beer was served side by side with Dungarvan beers made by Cormac O’Dwyer and Tom Dalton with their partners Jen and Claire. We drank little shots of their Blackrock Stout with chef Robbie Krawczyk’s Native oysters and Smoked Blackwater Salmon, a delicious combination.

We also enjoyed crispy pigs tails with sauce Gribiche. And breast of wild wood pigeon on smoked potato purée. Beef ribs from local butcher Michael McGrath were also fantastic and there was bone marrow and tongue fritters for the adventurous – all delicious.

Dan Hegarty who makes that really good cloth bound Hegarty’s cheddar on the family farm in Whitechurch was also with us, to share and regale us with stories of his cheese-making adventure.

Cheese and the artisan beer was a terrific pairing and those who still had a little space tucked into large helpings of Justin’s sloe gin trifle, it’s a wonder we went home at all!


Scampi or Deep-Fried Prawns with Tartare Sauce


Scampi was the ‘must have’ starter of the 60’s and 70’s, utterly delicious when made with fresh prawns, sadly nowadays it is more often a travesty made with inferior soggy frozen prawns.

very fresh Dublin Bay prawns, peeled

beer batter, see below

tartare sauce (see recipe)

Preheat the oil to 180°C/350°F in a deep fry.



Beer Batter


I sometimes dispense with the water and just use beer.

Produces a crisp coating for fish

250g (9 oz/) self raising flour

good pinch of salt

4 fl ozs (110ml) beer Howling Gale or Helvick Gold Blonde Ale

6 – 8 fl ozs (175 – 225ml) cold water

First make the batter; sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and gradually whisk in the beer and water.


Just before serving dip the very fresh prawns individually in the batter and deep fry in hot oil until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper. Serve immediately with a little bowl of tartare sauce and a segment of lemon.




Tartare Sauce


This classic is great with deep-fried fish, shellfish or fish cakes. Tartare sauce will keep for 5–6 days in a fridge, but omit the parsley and chives if you want to keep it for more than a day or two. A quick tartare sauce can be made by adding the extra ingredients into a homemade mayonnaise at the end.

Serves 8–10

2 organic egg yolks, hardboiled

2 organic egg yolks, raw

1⁄4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

225ml (8fl oz) extra virgin olive oil and 125ml (4fl oz) sunflower oil, mixed together

1 teaspoon capers, chopped

1 teaspoon gherkins, chopped

2 teaspoons chives, chopped

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

lemon juice, optional


Take the hardboiled eggs and remove the yolks from the whites. Sieve the hardboiled egg yolks into a bowl and add the raw egg yolks, Dijon mustard and vinegar. Mix well and whisk in the oil drop by drop, increasing the volume as the mixture thickens. When all the oil has been absorbed, add the capers, gherkins, chives and parsley. Roughly chop the hardboiled egg white and fold it gently into the base with salt, freshly ground pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice if necessary.


Irish Beef and Dungarvan Blackrock Stout Stew


Serves 6-8


In season:


This kind of recipe belongs to the newer tradition of Irish cooking, using some of our best ingredients. It makes a wonderful gutsy stew which tastes even better a day or two later.


900g (2 lbs (900g) lean Irish stewing beef

3 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons flour

salt and freshly ground pepper and a pinch of cayenne.

2 large onions (10oz/285g) approx.

1 large clove garlic, crushed optional

2 tablespoons tomato puree dissolved in 4 tablespoons water

1 bottle Dungarvan Blackrock Stout (300ml)

lb (225g) carrots cut into chunks


Trim the meat of any fat or gristle, cut into 2 inch (5cm) cubes, toss in a bowl with 1 tablespoon oil. Season the flour with salt freshly ground pepper and a pinch or two of cayenne, toss the meat in this mixture.

Heat the remaining oil in a wide frying pan over a high heat; brown the meat on all sides. Add the coarsely chopped onion, crushed garlic and tomato puree to the pan, cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Transfer the contents of the pan to a casserole, deglaze the frying pan with some of the stout, bring to the boil and stir to dissolve the caramelised meat juices on the pan, add to the meat with the remaining stout, add the carrots cut into chunks. Stir, taste and add a little more salt if necessary. Cover with the lid of the casserole, simmer very gently until the meat is tender – 2-3 hours.

The stew may be cooked on top of the stove or in a low oven 150C/300F/regulo 2. Taste and correct the seasoning. This stew can of course be eaten the moment it is cooked but tastes even better if cooked a day or two ahead. Scatter with lots of chopped parsley and serve with Champ, Colcannon or plain boiled potatoes.




Oyster and Stout Beef Pie



Oysters have an affinity with many Irish ingredients, of which Irish beef is one.

Serves 4

12 oysters, shells removed, juices strained and reserved

2 tablespoons plain flour

salt, freshly ground black pepper

700g/1½lb stewing beef, in 1in cubes

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

1-2 onions, finely chopped

225g/8oz mushrooms, sliced

425ml/15fl.oz Stout – Dungarvan Blackrock or Knockmealdown Porter

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

200g/7oz puff pastry

Green salad

Pie Dish

First open the oysters and shake off the excess. Season the flour with salt and pepper. Toss the beef in the flour. Heat the oil in a large, heavy frying pan. Once the oil is hot, add the beef to the pan a little at a time and seal. (Be careful not to overcrowd the pan as this will only create a stewing process.) Remove the beef from the pan.

Fry the onions and mushrooms until soft and then return the meat to the pan. Add the Dungarvan Blackrock Stout or Knockmealdown Porter, Worcestershire sauce and the oyster juices. Season with salt and pepper. Mix gently, cover and simmer until the meat is tender (about 1½ hours). Remove from the heat, add the oysters, stir gently and allow to cool completely. Preheat the oven to 230ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6.

Grease a deep pie dish. Pour the cold mixture into the pie dish. Cover with the pastry lid, leave a slight overhang around the edge of the dish. Crimp the edges and cut an air vent in the centre of the pastry and decorate with pastry leaves.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4. Bake for a further 30 minutes until the meat is heated through and pastry cooked.

Serve with a green salad.




Knockmealdown Porter Cake


The porter, be it Guinness or Murphy, plumps up the fruit and gives it a very distinctive taste. If you can manage to hide it away, this cake keeps really well. Serves about 20

225g (8oz) butter

225g (8oz) golden caster sugar

300ml (1⁄2 pint) Knockmealdown Porter

zest of 1 orange

225g (8oz) sultanas

225g (8oz) raisins

110g (4oz) mixed peel

450g (1lb) white flour

1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2 teaspoons mixed spice

110g (4oz) cherries, halved

3 organic eggs

23cm (9in) round tin, lined with silicone paper

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/ gas mark 4.

Melt the butter, caster sugar and stout in a saucepan. Add the orange zest and the fruit and peel (except the cherries). Bring the mixture to the boil for 3–4 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and leave to cool until it is lukewarm.

Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice into a mixing bowl. Add the fruit mixture to the flour and add the cherries. Whisk the eggs; add them gradually, mixing evenly through the mixture.

Bake in the oven for about 1 hour and 10 minutes. If you wish, when the cake is cooked, you can pour 4 tablespoons of stout over it. Keep for 2–3 days before cutting.



Slow Food East Cork event – Spectacular Cakes for Christmas

with Pamela Black at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Wednesday November 16th at 7.00pm. Lots of special techniques and decorating tips. Slow Food Members €35.00 – Non Slow Food Members €40.00 Proceeds to the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project. Booking Essential on 021 4646785 or

The Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize

in conjunction with the Moth Magazine – entries close on 31st December 2011 so stir up those creative juices to pen a winning poem – the first prize is €2,000.00…

The competition is open to everyone, and will be judged by Matthew Sweeney, whose most recent collection was shortlisted for The Irish Times/Poetry Now Award and the T. S. Eliot Prize. Go to for details on how to enter.

Farmhouse Cheeses of Ireland – A Celebration by Glynn Anderson and John McLaughlin

– Ireland Farmhouse Cheeses win top prizes in cheese shows all over the world yet many of us are hard pressed to name more than 4 or 5. There are over 60 to choose from – cow, goat, sheep and buffalo milk cheeses from all four corners of the island – at last a book to catalogue and celebrate the achievement of Farmhouse Cheese- makers who have helped to change and enhance the image of Irish Food both at home and abroad. Published by The Collins Press




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